Station Break - Broadcasting & Cable

Station Break

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The city of sisterly enmity

An apparent dispute between two on-air newspeople at NBC-owned WCAU(TV) Philadelphia spilled over to a police investigation last week, with accusations that one had threatened the other.

Anchor Sharon Reed was interviewed by police—with a lawyer present—regarding alleged threats reported by alleged target Alicia Taylor. The investigation ended with no charges brought, according to the police. Neither the station nor the women have publicly commented; their lawyers offered differing reports on whether Reed had admitted to police making the threats. Sources said Taylor took some time off; Reed was taken off the air and, insiders said late last week, was likely to be fired.

A battle of nasty messages and attacks has raged on industry Web sites, if not between the two women—as some believe—then among supporters. Comments have been highly insulting, personal and even racially oriented; both women are African-American.

Reed cuts a glamorous figure in Philly, linked with celebs like NFL star Donovan McNabb and actor Robert DeNiro.

WUSA wakeup win

As sweeps ended last week, Gannett's WUSA(TV) was poised to win the Washington early-morning-news race, nearly doubling its 5-6 a.m. audience from a year ago. Longtime market leader NBC-owned WRC-TV, which won at 6-7 a.m., and Allbritton's WJLA-TV each dropped a bit at 5, but the Gannett station's late-2000 morning-show overhaul appears to be bringing new eyeballs to early a.m. as well.

It was seen as a rather dramatic move when then-new News Director Dave Roberts and then-General Manager Dick Reingold moved evening anchors Mike Buchanan and Andrea Roane to mornings.

WJLA-TV plans its own overhaul this week, with new anchor team Elliott Francis and Andrea McCarren. Anchor Don Hudson becomes a reporter.

WRC-TV again won the overall ratings race in the increasingly competitive market, with a February Olympics boost, particularly at 11 p.m.

Open mike, insert foot

There hadn't been such a commotion at WJFW-TV Rhinelander, Wis., staffers say, since E!'s Steve Kmetko dissed his former employer in People.

But the NBC affiliate attracted national attention when Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum—apparently unaware that his mike was on—called reporter Matt Barrie "a dumb son-of-a-bitch" following questions at a satellite press conference.

McCallum later called the station to apologize, but such a gaffe was destined for instant controversy and wide distribution. WJFW-TV News Director Heather Schallock said she'd have preferred omitting profanity from her newscast, but, with many Wisconsin TV stations on the same feed, such propriety was a luxury.

"Part of me was against airing it," she said, "but we were not going to be last on a story we're a part of." The station didn't mention the remark in opening the story but commented later that the governor needed to know when the mike was on.

The station also fed its video to the NBC Newschannel. Calls and messages rolled in, with some critical the airing but most supportive. No calls yet, the station said, from Dick Clark's Bloopers.

Precautionary tale

WVUE(TV) weatherman Bob Breck believes that his wife, Paula Zabrecky, died because no one recognized the signs of pulmonary embolism. He began a campaign last week to reduce chances of its recurring.

In two lengthy pieces last week, Nancy Parker examined blood-clot hazards. The pieces dealt with the widespread damage, death, the value of blood thinners and leg stockings as well as Breck's life with his childhood sweetheart. "The story was Bob's idea," Parker said. "And Bob is a close friend. It was very tough to report on her life and how it was senselessly taken away."

Breck believes even doctors ignored clear signs but wishes he had been more aware. "As I told my sons, I believe in trying to make something positive out of something negative. This shouldn't have happened, and it hurts. I lost my wife. Now I want to get the word out."

Court reporting

WNBC-TV New York's Jonathan Dienst was credited with breaking the story last week that NBC Sports commentator and former New Jersey Nets star Jayson Williams was set to surrender to prosecutors to be charged with manslaughter in the death of a limo driver at his New Jersey estate last month.

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