WSAW, WZAW debut new, state-of-the-art Wausau studios

After months of hard work and preparation, the new sets for NewsChannel 7 and WZAW are ready.

"It's fun to be here right now, it's been a crazy month," said WSAW evening anchor Jeff Thelen, who joined the station in 1994.

For the first time in more than a decade, NewsChannel 7 is getting an upgrade with two new state of the art studios.

"A lot of the technology in here has gone into some of the big market station," said Gray Television director of engineering Michael Watson. "You're not going to see this anywhere else anytime soon."

Designed within 90 days by FX Design Group, an industry leader, it took a lot of local resources to get everything ready and assembled.

"There are people at home that are going to be able to say, 'I did that lighting, I did that electrical work, I installed that floor," said WSAW-WZAW news director Jessica Laszewski. "The monitors, the furniture, they're all supplied by local businesses and we tried as much as possible to buy local because that's important to us."

Every change and design decision was made with the viewer in mind, an edict dating back to the station's beginnings in 1954.

"The community has high standards for us and we have high standards for ourselves because of that history," Laszewski said.

"Sometimes I sit back and I'm amazed that I've been here for a full third of the 60 years that this place is been around," Thelen said. "I sit in that chair and I think that I'm sitting in the same place as Walter John Chilsen and Mark Zelich and it's quite a torch to carry."

This fall, viewers will have more coverage options with WZAW, the new FOX affiliate. The new station's call letters pay homage to long time news and sports director Mark Zelich.

But although the NewsChannel 7 and WZAW teams are focused on the future, the goal remains the same.

"[The added technology] helps to tell the story but the basics; reporting, good journalism, good video, good fact-finding and good storytelling are the core," Watson said.

"It's still your home and still has your memories but it's always nice when you have that fresh coat of paint on the wall," Thelen said.

"At the end of the day, it's not about us," Laszewski said. "We realize this is about the community and how we're sharing stories and presenting stories and now we have the tools that will enhance that."