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The Insider

Aug 6, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Will Barbara Walters just duet?
The Insider hears Barbara Walters is getting the VIP-as in Very Insistent Pressure-treatment from both the East and West Coasts of the ABC family to take on a steady co-anchor on “20/20” next season. Ms. Walters’ solo situation, however, is not expected to change until after her magazine returns from the hiatus dictated by the network’s grand scheduling scheme hatched in an attempt to save critical favorite “Once and Again.” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said, “There is no active search for a co-host” for Ms. Walters. Nevertheless, The Insider is hunkering down in anticipation of a tidal wave of speculative reports on who will eventually be designated as Ms. Walters’ Friday night on-air date.
On the Couric watch
Speaking of tidal waves of speculation about America’s favorite newswomen … How intense is interest in what Katie Couric will do for whom and for how much when her “Today” show contract is up? On one recent weekend, the subject was given extensive and prime space in the three top supermarket tabloids and Entertainment Weekly. Coming shortly in the September issue of Brill’s Content is a piece reporter Abigail Pogrebin describes as “more a look at where she is at this moment … what a person of her stature and influence has for options.”
The Insider wondered whether a sober publication has any advantage over the daily consumer and trade outlets and the tabloids when trying to get anyone in the know about the supersensitive subject to talk about it. Ms. Pogrebin characterized her success rate as “half and half.” Pressing her luck, The Insider asked whether Ms. Pogrebin’s article, which she wrapped up more than two weeks ago, will make news. “That’s the question,” Ms. Pogrebin said, before politely curtailing the conversation by noting that she prefers for her stories to speak for themselves. “It’s hard to make news.” To which The Insider says, “Amen.”
(But let’s take a shot at this thing anyway: Katie will take NBC’s gazillion-dollar offer to stay at the Peacock while turning down a close-to-gazillion-dollar offer from Mel and Sumner and a gazillion-and-a-half-dollar offer from Steve Case and Bob Pittman. At the same time, Katie will vehemently deny speculation that she’s the Ruminator …)
Signs of CNN’s changing times
It’s definitely a go for CNN’s street-level studio in the Time-Life Building in New York’s Rockefeller Center. Construction crews already are at work in the space that once housed a bank branch. The Insider hears that signage is expected soon on the space, which is a mere hop, skip and jump away from the street-level studios for NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and Fox News Channel but is farther away from CNN’s bureau and New York control rooms.
The Insider hears the plans for the midtown studio space do not include an on-site control room, an omission that-depending on who is talking-is either because CNN is trying to save space and money or because it’s hard to convince the old guard in Atlanta that it’s counterintuitive to separate a control room from a nifty new studio that’s designed to showcase CNN talent. Also depending on who is talking, the new studio space could be ready next year or early in 2003. But not many people will disagree that the control-room facilities are not in the greatest shape at Penn Plaza, where additional use of said facilities would not come without complications.
Mr. Qudeen’s smooth move
Robert Qudeen, the longtime Chris-Craft stations executive who was among those axed on the eve of the stations’ acquisition by News Corp., officially clocked out as general manager of WWOR-TV, New York, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 30. The very next morning, friends of Robert Qudeen found, in their U.S. mail, nicely printed, supersized postcards that said, “The Qudeens are located at …” and showed a full-color photo of a lovely house on a scenic piece of Hilton Head, S.C., marsh. The Insider, who has trouble coordinating a black shirt and black pants, thinks that even Martha Stewart would admire the precision of that move.
The final word
The NAACP, which regularly faults the networks over their minority hiring practices, may want to steal a catch-phrase from NBC “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno: “NBC apparently stands for `No Blacks on Camera.’“ Mr. Leno used the punch line last week in one of his monologues when he explained that Eriq La Salle, the African American actor who plays Dr. Peter Benton on “ER,” will leave the show at the end of this season, denying the network one of its star black performers. The comedian observed that there are no blacks on NBC’s “Friends” and joked that blacks must no longer live in New York City, where that program is supposed to take place. An NBC spokeswoman said the network is proud of its efforts to increase diversity on and off the camera. “Each one of our new shows premiering this fall has a minority representation,” she said. Did standards and practices approve Leno’s joke beforehand? The Insider is still awaiting a response to that question.