On Christmas Day, Tuesday, as people gather with their families to open presents and watch TV specials and movies, one local holiday tradition will be missing: Steve Shine's holiday movie marathon.
Shine explained he was prepared for the marathon, which he has hosted and organized on various TV channels since 1984. He had booked all his guests, set up their recording times and scheduled all the shows that would air Christmas Day. The one thing Shine was not prepared for, however, was the email he received from Jerry Giesler, president and general manager of Indiana News Center, which said the marathon would not air this year.
The email arrived four days before filming the guest celebrity spots were set to begin Dec. 1 at the Fort Wayne Country Club. Shine compared the taping to a rocket liftoff countdown. “I was at T minus 4 days.”
Shine had to scramble to notify the mayor, the governor, local disc jockeys and other media personalities that taping would not take place. “I was more concerned about the disruption to the DJs,” he said, because they turned down the opportunity to make extra money doing weekend remotes.
Giesler was unavailable for comment.
“It was disappointing not only to me but to the guests who wouldn't be on,” Shine said. “It brought a warm holiday feeling into the home. There was a familiarity with the programming and local celebrities… People were in relaxed settings, and you could see them in a way you don't normally see them.”
The marathon originally aired on WFFT, which Shine – an attorney and Allen County Republican chairman – had joined in 1981 as a news broadcaster, a vocation he said gives him “personal satisfaction.” At that time the marathon ran noon Christmas Eve to 6 p.m. Dec. 26.
The marathon continued on WFFT until the mid-1990s when the station became Fox, Shine said. It had been off the air for a couple of years, when WANE-TV approached him to restart the marathon on its UPN channel, which aired the marathon a couple of years until UPN went defunct.
It was at that time when INC approached Shine to continue the marathon since it had to find programming for its new local digital channels 33.1, 33.2 and 33.3.
The move to 33.2 was seamless, Shine said. “The holiday marathon fulfilled a great need to get programming on these channels.”
In recent years the holiday marathon aired a combination of movies and classic TV shows.
WAJI, 95.1-FM, midday disc jockey Barb Richards replied for comment about the situation in an email, “The appeal of the marathon was that people got to watch the older shows or movies with their kids and reminisce with their children how their holiday was back then. I know the marathon is going to be missed by a lot of area families!” Richards had appeared as a guest in the marathon's early years.
Rick “Doc” West, WXKE, 103.9-FM, morning show host and program director, said, “We got to see local people on the show – DJs, the mayor. It was locally produced and Steve hand-picked the movies and TV shows.”
West, who was scheduled to appear on this year's marathon, also said he and the late WXKE DJ Sharon Rossi appeared on last year's marathon. “It gave people a chance to see Sharon.” Rossi, who had been with WXKE during the 1980s through early 2000s, died in February.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry also has appeared on the marathon. “I have enjoyed participating in local holiday programming efforts. It was a neat way to enjoy the holiday season and have positive conversations about our community,” he said by written statement.
“I'm very positive I will have a new home in 2013,” Shine said. “It's a Fort Wayne show for Fort Wayne television. It's important to continue tradition.”