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Geraldo Prepping New Daily Show

Oct 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Fresh from facing down The New York Times, Geraldo Rivera is prepping for the launch of “Geraldo at Large” on about 150 stations on Monday, Oct. 31. That is expected to provide a ratings boost for those stations just as Nielsen Media Research begins the November sweeps ratings period Nov. 3.

Mr. Rivera said the new half-hour daily show “is not going to be magaziney. It’s going to be more like a newscast” featuring contributions from Fox News Channel reporters from three or four locations on any given day, unless there’s a story that warrants a single-topic showcase.

Mr. Rivera said he envisions it as “the beginning of a process” that would lead to a national newscast produced by Fox News for broadcast, even if it is someone else who anchors the finished product. Indeed, there has been talk that Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News and Fox Television Stations, wants to produce a national newscast for Fox Broadcasting that would be anchored by Shepard Smith.

Mr. Rivera and Mr. Ailes have had a long relationship. Mr. Rivera had a show on CNBC in 1998 when Mr. Ailes ran the business-news channel. “We fire each other up. We love this business, this progression, this calling,” Mr. Rivera said of their relationship.

The launch of the daily “Geraldo at Large” came about only after Mr. Ailes was given additional responsibility for the Fox stations and Twentieth Television, following the departure from parent News Corp. last month of Lachlan Murdoch, who had previously overseen those divisions.

Mr. Rivera hopes he will be able to anchor from the field a couple of times a week. He also wants to maintain his commitment to “At Large With Geraldo Rivera,” his 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday night Fox News Channel show. He proudly noted that his current program ranks as the most-watched weekend cable news show. According to data from Nielsen Media Research, it averaged 1.6 million viewers, 528,000 of them in the news demographic of 25- to 54-year- olds, in September. Those are year-to-year increases of 40 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

Mr. Rivera declined to address the short-lived resurrection of “A Current Affair,” which “Geraldo at Large” will replace and which also was distributed by Twentieth Television, but which cleared only 70 stations, reaching about 67 percent of the country. “Geraldo at Large,” which will be produced by Fox News, will be available in approximately 90 percent of the country.

Instead, he focused on the new “At Large,” and the “urgency and passion” with which he intends to infuse it.

“It has to have immediacy. It has to be reporting, not repeating” what people already know from other sources that day, Mr. Rivera said.

He also said he expects “At Large” weekdays to hew to the same tone and topical mix as the weekend version, which recently got a graphics makeover with an opening that features Mr. Rivera in suit and tie and in flak jacket, or, as he said, portraying him as “sage” and “warrior.”

Last week, Mr. Rivera came out on top in a high-profile fight with The New York Times, whose TV critic, Alessandra Stanley, on Sept. 5 characterized him as having “nudged” an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so that Mr. Rivera could be videotaped helping to carry an elderly woman in a wheelchair out of a flood-bound house after Hurricane Katrina.

“I heard about it [while reporting on Katrina’s aftermath] in Baton Rouge. I exploded,” Mr. Rivera said.

After a three-week campaign in which Mr. Rivera raged, his lawyer wrote, Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly ranted and a sometimes unlikely coalition of critics rose to Mr. Rivera’s defense, The New York Times relented and printed an “Editor’s Note” acknowledging that “no nudge was visible on the broadcast.” But it continued to maintain that “[t]he editors understood the ‘nudge’ comment as the television critic’s figurative reference to Mr. Rivera’s flamboyant intervention.”

“I would call it ungracious and grudging,” Mr. Rivera said of The Times’ “Note.”

Even harsher was his opinion of the Sunday, Sept. 25, Times column by public editor Byron Calame taking The Times to task for not publishing a correction, even though the column may have forced The Times to bend.

“It was so infuriatingly unfair,” said Mr. Rivera, of the column that opened with Mr. Calame writing: “One of the real tests of journalistic integrity is being fair to someone who might be best described by a four-letter word.”

In a telephone call from Oregon, where he was checking out a college with son Cruz, Mr. Rivera acknowledged that he can be a polarizing figure.

“I think I’m in my 15th generation of TV critics,” he said.