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A look at local sweeps

May's regional news scores reflect heated competition and staffing changes 6/03/2001 08:00:00 PM Eastern

At WGRZ-TV Buffalo, on the day before the end of the May sweeps, Darryll Green, the general manager, and Randal Stanley, the news director, assembled the troops and showed them the last 20 heroic minutes of Rocky.

"After that, we were ready to go," Green says, and the inspirational rally could have helped the NBC affiliate in its surprise May sweeps victory over longtime late-news leader WKBW-TV. "We've never won at 11 p.m. in households, and we've got employees who've been here for 30 years," Green notes. "Ch. 7 has been the market leader here for a long time."

As sweeps ended, WGRZ-TV hustled in Today Show
host Katie Couric, already in Buffalo for a story on Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh, to congratulate the staff.

News is what local television is all about, even in the big cities. In New York City, WNBC(TV) won again, with WABC-TV finishing second. WCBS-TV, which had a bright spot with its first-place noon news, finished well behind in the all-important late news, even behind Friends reruns in syndication on WPIX(TV). It tied with Seinfeld reruns on Fox's WNYW(TV).

But perhaps the big story in New York was the 10 p.m. battle, in which new Fox acquisition WWOR-TV squeaked out a victory for the first time during sweeps over Fox's WNYW(TV), with Tribune's WPIX(TV) finishing third. The strong late-news finish was a highlight in an otherwise down month for WWOR-TV.

While competitive in a few large markets like Miami and Boston, CBS-owned stations continued to fare poorly in the top five. Although it hardly challenged KNBC(TV) for market leadership, KCBS-TV Los Angeles boasted that it had its best book in at least a decade. "We researched it back for 10 years," says departing KCBS-TV GM John Severino, "and my memory goes back farther than that," says the former longtime KABC-TV chief.

In recent months, KCBS-TV has picked up main anchor Harold Greene from KABC-TV and Kent Shocknek from KNBC(TV), among others departed from other stations due to price tag or changes in philosophy. "But we didn't have to spend years promoting them," says Severino, who notes that three of his current marquee names—Greene, Ann Martin and Jim Hill—all worked for him in the '80s at KABC-TV.

Aided as well by America's top news director—that would be Judge Judy—KCBS-TV claimed double-digit percentage gains at 5 p.m., 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and a slight gain at 11 p.m.

In Philadelphia, ousted KYW-TV News Director Melissa Klinzing was perhaps the highest-profile casualty. After the May book, she was canned by GM Marcellus Alexander. Klinzing, formerly news director for cable station Bay News 9 Tampa, Fla., ABC station KMGH-TV Denver and KFOR-TV Oklahoma City, joined the station as executive producer, recruited by Joel Cheatwood in 1999. She replaced Cheatwood when he moved to New York to become WCBS-TV's news director and oversee all CBS-owned stations' news departments.

Philadelphia's long-dominant WPVI-TV recovered its top spot in late news, having dropped a sweeps period to hard-charging WCAU(TV) in February. The two stations were barely half a point apart.

In Boston, unflattering stories about WHDH-TV in local newspapers after it dropped popular anchor Kim Carrigan didn't stop the Sunbeam station from keeping its top spot in late news, although its ratings have dropped. Boston has become an increasingly tight market at 11 p.m. and at noon, with barely a point separating WHDH-TV, WCVB-TV and CBS-owned WBZ-TV.

Longtime anchor Natalie Jacobson continues to dominate for Hearst's WCVB-TV at 6 p.m. At 10 p.m., Tribune-owned WLVI-TV held a small lead over over Fox's year-old WFXT(TV) newscast, which will introduce new anchor and former NBC personality Jodi Applegate

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