John Walsh is more than the host of his own daily syndicated talk show. He is also something of a human encyclopedia of crime information for NBC affiliates to have at their fingertips.
As part of his deal with NBC Enterprises, the network's affiliates often get to tap into Walsh's expertise on breaking crime stories, such as the abductions in California earlier this year and the Washington-area sniper case. Walsh spends an hour or so talking with stations' news anchors in NBC's studios in New York City. NBC puts the interviews on a satellite for stations to use in news coverage, says Steve Schwaid, vice president, news and programming, NBC Stations Division.
The six producing teams on Walsh's daytime show also can pack up quickly and go on location. In October, the show went to Rockville, Md., to film a town-hall meeting about the sniper scare. The planned Oct. 10 show was preempted in the Washington, D.C., market by local coverage of the killings, but there was enough interest that NBC's WRC-TV aired the program on Monday, Oct. 14. It received a 2.5 rating in the market, up 56% over last year's time-period occupant, NBC Enterprises'The Other Half.
Walsh followed up his coverage of the sniper killings by scheduling several guests exclusive to daytime for his Oct. 30 show. Among them: Kellie Adams, of Montgomery, Ala., the first of the sniper's victims; Annie Holiday Jackson, aunt of suspected sniper John Allen Muhammad, who raised him after his mother died; and Felix Strozier, of Tacoma, Wash., Muhammad's former business partner. Walsh's producers worked long hours over the weekend to schedule the guests, but Linda Finnell, senior VP of programming for NBC Enterprises, says the task is made easier because "John is the platinum card of booking. His name opens doors to people everywhere. People want to talk to John. They see him as this advocate, a hero, someone who has been out fighting for them."
In the week ended Oct. 20, The John Walsh Show
averaged a 1.2 rating, the second-highest-rated nationally distributed new talk show, behind King World's Dr. Phil.