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Peabody Puts India-no-place on the Map

Indianapolis has long been dismissed by its Midwestern neighbors as “India-no-place.” But last week, the No. 25 Nielsen market was hard to overlook when two of its stations won prestigious Peabody Awards for their hard-hitting news stories: WTHR, for a pair of reports on tornado-warning sirens and drug stores’ disposal of client information, and WISH, for a report on inadequate padding in U.S. Marine combat helmets.

Folks at the University of Georgia, which has administered the award for 66 years, can’t find another instance when a TV market as small as Indy scored a twofer in the same year. (New York did it in 1977, Boston in 1986, and Chicago in 1966 and 1979.)

“My news director, Jim Tellus, calls and says, 'You won’t believe this! We just won a Peabody Award.’” recounts WTHR General Manager Rich Pegram. “And then he says, 'WISH won one. too.’ I said, 'Get out!’”

Jacques Natz, who was news director at WTHR when its winning reports aired, calls Indianapolis “a hotbed of investigative reporting,” thanks to the competition between LIN Broadcasting’s WISH and Dispatch Broadcasting’s WTHR. Adds WISH News Director Kevin Finch, “It’s a rich heritage that goes back decades.”

Natz, who now directs Hearst-Argyle’s digital content division, says he had set out to find the “best investigative reporter in America.” He may have found it in Bob Segall, who not only reported WTHR’s winning stories but also earned a Peabody in 2005 for WITI Milwaukee.

And WISH reporter/anchor Karen Hensel is a repeat Peabody winner, too.

Prodigal Son

CNBC’s recently announced plans to adapt the comic strip CEO Dad into a series this fall will be the network’s first foray into animation. But, for Tom Stern, the comic’s creator, the series represents a kind of homecoming.

Stern, whose humorous self-help book CEO Dad: How To Avoid Getting Fired by Your Family is out this month from Black-Davis Publishing, created the strip after realizing how much he had allowed his success as an executive recruiter to alienate his family.

But before he transformed into the sort of family-phobic workaholic he satirizes in his comic strip, Stern was an aspiring standup comic who did a stint developing comedy on HBO.

What’s more, Stern’s father is Alfred R. Stern, a former NBC executive and PBS chairman who started cable company Television Communications Inc. in 1962 and merged it with Warner Communications Inc. 10 years later. (He was also honored by this magazine with the 1976 Distinguished Leadership award.)

According to his author bio, Stern attributes his own destructive overachieving to his father, who “had no time for a needy, bed-wetting son with ADHD and dyslexia.”

Let’s hope the CNBC series is the final step in Stern’s recovery.

Stiff Odds

As The Sopranos enters its final stretch on HBO, online gamblers are playing odds on which cast member will be the first to get whacked. And according to Bodog.com, it doesn’t look good for Johnny Sack.

The gambling site set odds at an even 1-1 that jailed New York boss Johnny Sacramoni will be the first to go. Tony Soprano’s demented uncle, Junior, and his cousin, Christopher Moltisanti, are close behind. (All survived the April 8 premiere episode.)

Over at Betus.com, Sopranos wagering began late last month and has been a huge hit. Although American Idol does a larger volume of bets, spokesman Reed Richards says no pop-culture–focused book gets a faster barrage of bets than the crew from Jersey—from small-timers betting $20 a pop to full-on capos who lay down $500 and more.

“It’s been humongous for us,” Richards says. “We’re getting around a thousand bets a day.”

Odds will change, of course, as the season progresses. For now, though, the immediate family is relatively safe. Tony stands at 17-1 while wife Carmela and the kids are at 12-1.

But Christopher is first among made guys, with 2-1 odds he’ll be offed—in other words, a $50 bet would pay out $100. It’s a smart bet, says Richards: “Christopher is back on drugs, he’s getting sloppy, and the feds might be able to get to him. They gotta whack him.”

With P.J. Bednarski and Michael Malone

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