Bell out, Hair in at KCBS-TV
It has been a difficult year for news directors at CBS stations, with executives in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City replaced.
Now KCBS-TV Los Angeles News Director Roger Bell will leave the station at the end of the year, replaced by corporate News Director Princell Hair. CBS would not comment, but the station has had ratings problems for years—long preceding, in fact, Bell's tenure there.
Bell was hired by then-GM John Severino in 1999 after a successful tenure as executive producer at WNBC-TV New York's top-rated late news.
Hair will continue to oversee several CBS stations' news departments in addition to running the news in Los Angeles. Joel Cheatwood, the CBS group's vice president of news, also is news director at WCBS-TV New York.
Hair and Cheatwood first worked together at WSVN(TV) Miami, and Cheatwood later hired Hair as news director at WMAQ-TV Chicago. Both careers were set back by the debacle over Jerry Springer's commentaries there in 1999. Hair rebounded at WBAL-TV Baltimore, and, after a few attempts, Cheatwood—by then VP news for the CBS group—brought him in as corporate news director.
While ABC affiliates across the country were complaining that the network's prime time problems were giving them lousy late-news lead-ins, ABC-owned WPVI-TV Philadelphia decided to turn its network's minus into a local plus. "In spite of [ABC's] losing every 10:45 to 11 p.m. time period during sweeps," the station bragged in a post-sweeps press release, "Action News with Jim Gardner, Dave Roberts and Gary Papa tied for first [with NBC-owned WCAU(TV)] at 11 o'clock."
The decision of a trial judge to keep reporters and jurors in a sensational Philadelphia murder case separated—even after the case ended in a mistrial—was upheld by a three-judge appeals panel. The decision by Judge Linda Baxter was correct, the appeals judges ruled, because of the possible fallout from a second trial in the case of a rabbi accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife. Local news outlets plan to appeal.
If it bleeds...
A medical study out of the University of California Medical Center suggests that local TV news' emphasis on fires, accidents and murders distorts the public's perception of real risks to their health.
In an article published in the Western Medical Journal, Dr. David McArthur compared news reports in late 1996 and early 1997 on traumatic events with actual public records and found that the reporting of injuries differs dramatically from the incidence of injuries and that many kinds of injuries were significantly underrepresented.
McArthur acknowledged that most definitions of newsworthiness would naturally lead newscasts toward the more dramatic or traumatic events, especially when TV news is "visually-driven. But the visually compelling story is not necessarily the most important."
Courthouse reporting, he noted, tends to be more analytical than visual and typically provides stories with more context. A household slip-and-fall may lack the drama of an accident, he said, "but people are very much aware that their grandmother suffered from a fall, and a good story on falls in the home might do a lot of good."
The reporting on anthrax, McArthur observed, has frequently developed into reporting with real context and risk analysis.
Bebel heads double
KRIV(TV) Houston VP and General Manager D'Artagnan Bebel will head Fox's Houston duopoly, running KTXH(TV) as well. Tom Hurley, who has been GM at KTXH, will become VP and director of sales and programming for both stations and for the Houston office of Fox Sports Southwest.