Station Break

At the Mall

When KCRA Sacramento, Calif., went shopping for a new venue for its noon newscast, it settled on a popular local hangout, the Arden Fair Mall. The Hearst-Argyle NBC affiliate last week began a daily telecast from a new $1 million studio on the mall's mezzanine level, across from a Victoria's Secret store.

"It just gives us a chance to get out of the station and into the community," says Director of Creative Services Gene Robinson. As much marketing as media, the 1,000-square-foot set—called the "The KCRA Experience"—also serves as a retail store offering a limited inventory of station merchandise, public tours, and an area where anchor wannabes can record their own mock newscasts.

West Virginia Court TV

Charleston, W.Va.—A lawsuit filed by former WOWK reporter Matt Lundy has opened a political can of worms in the Mountaineer state. The suit accuses the station's owner, West Virginia Media Holdings LLC, of "reporting news that reflected favorably upon the investors of [the company] without disclosing the relationship to the public." The filing claims that, when Lundy questioned the practice, he was "met with threats of reassignment and/or termination."

"He just wanted to resign, but they refused to allow him to resign," says attorney Michael Florio, who represents Lundy. When Lundy did quit last month, the station filed an arbitration complaint alleging breach of contract.

"We had an unhappy employee, who, to get out of his agreement, suggested there were improprieties in the management of our news operation," says Bray Cary, president and CEO of West Virginia Media, in denying Lundy's claims. The company, he adds, has confidentiality agreements with its investors, none of whom exerts influence over news coverage.

Lundy's lawsuit is short on specific claims. "We didn't get into a lot of the facts about [Lundy's] concerns," Florio says, "but we tried to put the procedure in there so that people would understand what the history of this was."

A Charleston newspaper last week reported two instances that it said indicates the potential problems with West Virginia Media's disclosure practices. The Gazette-Mail
found that a member of the state legislature had received a free trip to Mexico in return for spending several thousand dollars on advertising at WBOY Clarksburg, an NBC affiliate also owned by West Virginia Media. Democrat Donna Reid Renner is a member of an advisory committee to the company, the paper reported. A separate story revealed that the family of Lloyd Jackson, a Democrat running for governor, owns a $175,000 stake in West Virginia Media.

In addition to WOWK and WBOY, the company owns CBS affiliates WTRF Wheeling and WVNS Ghent.

Weather Thou Goest

Denver—Thirteen years and eight Emmy awards is enough for Mike Nelson. When his contract ends in June, the veteran weather forecaster will leave Gannett's NBC affiliate KUSA to join crosstown rival KMGH, owned by McGraw-Hill. Nelson becomes the second recent high-profile defection from News 9. Anchor Jim Bennemann walked out last year for a new gig at CBS O&O KCNC.

Nelson's move raises the question whether current KMGH meteorologist Marty Coniglio will be around when his contract is up at the end of the year. It may take that long for Nelson to show up on KMGH. A non-compete provision in his current contract with KUSA could keep him behind the scenes until December. Earlier this month, KMGH weekend weather forecaster Pam Daale died after a long battle with breast cancer.

Meredith Names Morning News Maven

San Francisco—Meredith Broadcasting named Rosemarie Schwarz to the brand-new position of vice president of a.m. news operations, overseeing morning news for the eight of its 12 stations that air morning newscasts.

Schwarz, who reports to Vice President of News and Marketing Mark Berryhill, comes to the group from KTVU San Francisco, where she worked with Meredith's chief, Kevin O'Brien, when he was general manager of the station. There, as an executive producer, she helped create its Mornings on 2
newscast. Before that, she previously was with KRON San Francisco and NBC News.

Berryhill is looking to capitalize on the fastest-growing news time period to "generate significant ratings and, subsequently, advertising revenue." It's no secret that, at most local stations, the news growth is in early-morning newscasts, not in the traditional dinner-hour or late time periods.