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Trouble aStern

Howard Stern's merry pranksters were at it again.

Fans of the shock jock have long made a game out of getting past call screeners on talk shows and news broadcasts, purporting to be the kind of eyewitnesses to breaking news events that can give news outlets an edge in the 24-hour scoop wars, then letting loose with a "bababboey "(or however it is you spell it) or some nonsequitorial reference to the shock jock.

CNN was the latest victim Wednesday. During a Situation Room story on John Mark Karr, suspected killer of JonBenet Ramsey, anchor Wolf Blitzer began talking to a caller, purportedly with information about Karr's appearance before a judge. But when the caller deadpanned the information that Carr had been told to kill the child by Howard Stern, Blitzer knew he had been flamed.

Blitzer handled it as deftly as could be expected, I thought, then returned to apologize after a break.

Getting Sterned has become an occupational hazard of live news, which suggests that call screeners must be ever, and even more, vigilant.

By John Eggerton