Hearst-Argyle, Belo Stations Ramp Up Candidate Coverage for Final Week

Oct 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Television stations are gearing up for the final week of election coverage, including Hearst-Argyle stations that have planned an intensive slate of coverage as part of the group’s “Commitment 2004.” That’s Hearst-Argyle’s initiative to devote at least five minutes each day of candidate-centered coverage in its newscasts between 5 p.m. and 11:35 p.m. in the 30 days leading up to the election. That group mandate applies to all 26 Hearst-Argyle stations that produce news.

In the last two weeks before the election, the group’s ABC affiliate WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., expected to air four commercial-free debates in the early evening for Senate, Congress and the governorship; ABC station WCVB-TV in Boston is producing a New England town hall meeting on the health care crisis for Oct. 25; ABC station KMBC-TV in Kansas City aired a Missouri gubernatorial debate on Oct. 18; NBC affiliate WYFF-TV in Greenville, S.C., planned to air additional advertising truth checks; and NBC station WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, N.C., was slated to run about nine more live candidate interviews during the 5 p.m. news, followed by Internet chats with those candidates.

“The goal is to do this every day,” said WXII News Director Barry Klaus. Newsmakers range from county commissioner candidates to congressional candidates. Each has the opportunity for a three- to five-minute interview during the news and then to answer questions online for about 30 minutes. Then, during the 6 p.m. news, one of the anchors or political reporters speaks to the candidate again about the questions that arose during the Internet chat.

“It gives an opportunity for viewers to hear what candidates have to say and gets candidates talking about issues,” Mr. Klaus said.

On Oct. 1, the station carried an Internet chat with Republican congressional candidate Virginia Foxx that garnered 17 questions and 590 page views during her half-hour. The follow-up with Democratic opponent Jim Harrell on Oct. 8 generated 12 questions and 511 page views.

Efforts such as those by WXII and the other stations count towards the requisite five minutes, said Candy Altman, VP news for Hearst-Argyle. What does not count is horse-race coverage, or stories that look at who’s ahead in the polls. While those stories are important to do, they don’t focus specifically on issues, she said. What does count, for instance, are debates, sound from interviews with candidates, live interviews, speeches, truth checks on advertising and other types of coverage.

Other Hearst-Argyle Commitment 2004 coverage has included the half-hour weekly programs with candidates that air each Sunday at 10 a.m. on WCVB during October. The station’s “Chronicle” magazine also plans to air a half-hour special on the issue of stem cell research on Oct. 27.

Also on the topic of free airtime, Belo’s KING-TV in Seattle, the local NBC affiliate, said it has received a news media exemption to air “It’s Your Time,” a campaign aimed at informing viewers about political candidates running for national office. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission ruled that the show does not violate prohibitions on corporate contributions in connection with a national election.

The show provides five-minute segments for candidates that are divided into a four-minute piece allowing the candidate to respond to the question: “Why should the voters of your district cast their vote for you?” and a one-minute piece to respond to a specific question. The four-minute portions were slated to air as part of a special, while the one-minute segments were scheduled to air between Oct. 18 and Oct. 29.

Moving Shop

The NBC-owned duopoly of NBC affiliate KNTV and Telemundo station KSTS-TV in San Francisco plan to move into their new shared facility in early November, while news broadcasts from the facility will start in December.

On the Move

Longtime traffic reporter Jennifer York, a fixture in the rush hour skies of Los Angeles, left Tribune-owned WB station KTLA-TV on Oct. 13 after a 13-year tenure on the station’s morning news. Bill Thomas is filling in for her until a replacement is found … Tribune-owned WB station WGN-TV in Chicago introduced its new morning anchor team last week as Robin Baumgarten joined Larry Potash to front the morning show from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Ms. Baumgarten had served as a 5 a.m. anchor … In Miami, Viacom promoted Shannon High-Bassalik to VP of news operations for CBS station WFOR-TV and UPN station WBFS-TV. She previously served as news director for the two stations. WFOR’s ratings have been steadily rising since she joined in 1999 … Boston’s ABC station WCVB-TV rejiggered its anchor lineup. Ed Harding will now anchor the 11 p.m. news with Liz Brunner while continuing his work as co-anchor on the 5-7 a.m. news with Heather Unruh. Meterologist JC Monahan will now handle the weather segment for that same two-hour morning slot and for the noon news, shifting with David Brown, who takes over for her on weekend evenings … Also in Boston, Viacom named Julio Marenghi president and general manager of CBS station WBZ-TV and UPN affiliate WSBK-TV as well as UPN station WLWC-TV in Providence, R.I. He replaces Ed Goldman, who is leaving WBZ. In addition, Viacom named Tom Kane president of sales for Viacom Television Stations Group. He most recently served as president of Viacom Television Stations Spot Sales and will now oversee all sales operations. He also served as a general manager at New York’s WABC-TV. He replaces Mr. Marenghi.