For 17 years, Whitney Vann woke up residents in the WBRZ viewing area with her cheery smile and bubbly personality as co-host of “2une-In.”
Now, for the first time, she’s waking her and husband Robert Schneckenberger’s kids up for school … even fixing breakfast for 16-year-old son Reid and 11-year-old daughter Sidney Joy .
“I never could even take them to school,” says Whitney, who retired from the early morning TV show Aug. 28. “I’m back on the tennis court and, for the first time, playing with more than five hours of sleep.”
Whitney admits she’s enjoying not getting up at 3:30 in the morning. “I don’t know, I did it for so long,” she confesses. “A lot of nights I’d only get three or four hours of sleep. I just got up and did it (2une-In) … put one foot in front of the other.”
Now, this much-loved TV personality is set to embark on a new venture. It’s a feature-driven TV show called “Weekends With Whitney” that tells stories about ordinary and interesting people and places. It airs this Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on WBRZ with a rebroadcast on WBTR Sunday night at 6.
The show is a collaboration between Whitney and WBRZ station manager Rocky Daboval. According to Whitney, the two met last May to talk renewing her contract.
“I told him I’d renew for a year,” she says. “I thought I could hang on for another year with the exciting changes that are coming.”
Then Whitney left for a family vacation and when she came back she knew she just didn’t have another year left in her. But Daboval wasn’t ready to let this “Channel 2 family” member leave the nest, so they talked about what it would take to keep her in the fold. Not having an existing show she was interested in, he threw down the gauntlet and said, “design one and it’s yours.”
It’s really hers, too. Whitney owns the show and serves as executive producer. There’s also an option to franchise it down the road like the popular, similar-in-format “PM Magazine” that aired on WBRZ in the 1980s.
“So much has happened in the last three months,” says Whitney. “So many fabulous people have lent their expertise. I’ve had to set up a business. I have to sell the ads. I have to write and edit the promos, do all the marketing and branding.”
She’s also had to purchase camera and editing equipment, as well as hire a co-worker —senior producer and videographer Kim Bronikowski.
“Owning my own show even 10 years ago would have been cost-prohibitive,” says Whitney. “A video camera then cost around $25,000 and now costs $5,000. And, we’re able to do some amazing things editing on the Mac computer.
“I’m learning all kinds of new things,” she continues. “I love that creative part. It’s freeing, more than anything.”
Aside from her own show airing on WBRZ, Whitney remains in the Channel 2 family by airing her favorite stories from each week’s show on “2une-In” and the 5 p.m. newscast every Thursday. Along with weekly feature stories, “Weekends with Whitney” will air several regular segments like “Sunday Sizzle” and inspirational words and advice from local psychologist Nick Abraham.
Whitney has been in television for 25 years and it’s a career she stumbled into quite by accident.
She was trying out for cheerleader at Ole Miss and the guy who was helping her learn a stunt asked her to help him out with a project in return. It involved interviewing people in downtown Oxford. “I was hooked,” she says.
After getting her undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism at Ole Miss, she went to the Boston University for her master’s degree. Her thesis was a 30-minute documentary on the state of the lobster industry.
“Now, I’m back where I started,” says Whitney. “Next month I’m going out on an oyster boat and we’ll talk about that industry. I guess you can say I’ve fallen in love with TV all over again.”