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The Insider

Nov 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

A(BC’s) tale of too-different cities
In Dallas, the hometown of American Airlines, Belo-owned ABC affiliate WFAA-TV could not get the network’s permission to pre-empt the halftime show in the Nov. 12 “Monday Night Football” broadcast for a local news update on the American Airlines jet crash in New York that morning. The network nixed three different options proposed by WFAA and suggested no compromises, said a source familiar with the situation. So WFAA bundled up all its local avails and positioned them at the end of halftime to make a two-minute, four-second news package (but no revenue) that didn’t cover up any network material.
Meanwhile, ABC-owned WABC-TV in New York and WPVI-TV in Philadelphia covered the entire halftime show with locally produced crash-themed newscasts. The network issued a statement in the name of John Rouse, senior VP of affiliate relations, that said: “We were open to suggestions from local station markets who expressed an obligation to update viewers in the directly affected and surrounding areas.“
ABC News divas get an in-house referee
Kerry Marash, ABC News’ VP of editorial quality (i.e., standards and practices), has been given an additional responsibility: refereeing in-house competition for big stories. The most fierce intramural rivals are Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, the so-called dueling divas of ABC News. Their wrestling matches for “big get” interviews are frequently juicy enough to make their way into boldface print on New York’s gossip pages or even the pages of TV Guide. The Insider would suggest that peacekeeping in a news division so full of ambition and egos is a full-time chore. But someone familiar with the executive thought process at ABC News said it is a logical extension of Ms. Marash’s overall assignment, which is to make sure everything from beginning to end of the editorial process is done in such a way that the story makes news for what’s on camera, not for what happens off camera.
`Today’s’ period of adjustment
Just last spring, the big question at NBC News was how to make sure the network re-signed Katie Couric, the popular co-host of the seemingly invincible “Today” show. Now, with ABC’s “Good Morning America” less than a ratings point behind “Today” (last week’s margin, 880,000 viewers, was the narrowest since the week of Thanksgiving 1996), some are worrying about the “Today” ratings drain and the backstage turmoil at the NBC morning show.
Several weeks ago, The Insider heard of a meeting at which staffers blew off enough steam to heat a New York apartment building. Eventually, someone other than Jonathan Wald, the young “Nightly News” executive producer chosen by Ms. Couric to succeed her pal, gifted executive producer Jeff Zucker, declared, basically, “Jeff’s gone. Get over it.”
Enter Neal Shapiro, the well-liked “Dateline NBC” executive producer who became NBC News president last spring and has characteristically used meetings with clusters of staffers to familiarize himself with the nooks and crannies of the news division. Mr. Shapiro has been meeting with small groups of “Today” personnel. Those who know Mr. Shapiro’s steadying influence are counting on him to work some management magic before “Today” finds itself in genuinely dire straits.
Out with the old, in with the new at CNN
Bonnie Anderson, who went from correspondent to VP in charge of recruiting and talent development during her long tenure at CNN, is out. Sources said she’ll be replaced by David Neuman, who has headed CNN’s new program development operation since being brought aboard last summer by Garth Ancier, executive VP for programming for the Turner Networks. Mr. Neuman was president of Digital Entertainment Network, one of the more infamous short-lived attempts at the so-called convergence of Web- and TV-style programming, from 1998 until the plug was pulled in May 2000.
. . . And at Fox’s New York duopoly
The Insider hears that more changes are coming to the New York duopoly managed by Jim Clayton, general manager for both the Fox flagship WNYW-TV and the UPN affiliate WWOR-TV, which was acquired in the purchase of the Chris-Craft Industries stations. Neil Goldstein is the news director for the duopoly. Among the possibilities: moving Fox station WNYW-TV’s midday newscast from 11:30 a.m. to noon and putting on a newscast in early evening. The personnel shakeout that has led to some exits and swaps is certain to continue. Last week someone started a “Woe is Jim Ryan” campaign in the New York tabloid that is not owned by Fox parent News Corp., insinuating that Mr. Ryan was expecting to be bruised when his contract to anchor “Good Day New York,” expires in January. However, The Insider hears that that some very important people rather like Mr. Ryan.