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Talk Back at 6

Scranton, Pa., station plans first interactive local newscast 7/14/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

WYOU, whose 6 p.m. newscast has been the longtime cellar-dweller in Scranton, Pa., plans to launch the nation's first interactive newscast this summer, possibly by early August.

Viewers will be able to participate through the station's Website or by telephone in real time, but so far, station management is not exactly disclosing many details about its plans.

“Our CEO [Perry Sook] came to us and said, 'You can be doing more. Think outside of the box; be creative, be bold,'” says WYOU News Director Ron Krisulevicz, who was promoted from assistant news director last month.

Taking a risk won't risk much. WYOU grabs only a 3% share of the total viewership at 6 p.m.

Under a shared-services agreement, Nexstar Broadcast Group Inc., owner of WBRE Wilkes-Barre, provides news to Mission Broadcasting's WYOU. The two use common facilities in Wilkes-Barre, the other big city in Nielsen's 53rd-largest market.

Krisulevicz wants to shake up the market. “They've been doing the same things for decades,” he says, referring to his own station and the competition.

On the new newscast, he says, “Viewers will have a number of opportunities during each newscast to question reporters and newsmakers on the air.”

The station will use time-delay devices to prevent indecent or inappropriate language from reaching the air. Otherwise, Krisulevicz says, “the sky's the limit in this format.”

A new set will be delivered this week. For its part, the station is hiring some new personnel, including a co-anchor and reporters. Anchor Diane Lee will stay, but the station is looking for a co-anchor to replace Frank Andrew, who left earlier to enter politics.

WYOU's newscast has been running monthly call-in segments called “The Law and You,” during which a local lawyer also answers viewers' e-mailed questions. The lawyer who originated the segment and answered viewer questions for eight years parlayed the visibility into an elected judgeship on the Lackawanna County Court last year.

Market leader WNEP, owned by the New York Times Broadcast Group, does not anticipate doing anything different once WYOU unveils its format. The station doesn't have much to worry about: It has a 38 household share at 6 p.m.

“I've been here 3½ years,” says WNEP News Director Dennis Fisher, “and my bosses have said WNEP should do what WNEP does without respect to anybody else.”

March