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Station Break

D.C. stations play catch-up on politics

While Washington-area stations continued to follow closely post-arrest legal proceedings of the sniper suspects, they also returned to covering the numerous key political races in the three-jurisdiction area, including the race for Washington mayor, Maryland governor and several congressional contests.

Station news executives acknowledged that politics had naturally gotten short shrift during the area siege, and WRC-TV News Director Bob Long said the dominance of the sniper story in October will be evident throughout November sweeps, with fewer news packages likely because of the lack of time to prepare them. "Typically, stations do more of those than usual during a major book like November," Long offered. "But this sweeps will probably have more spot news." That, he said, will make it more challenging for the producers of station promos, which are far more frequent during sweeps.

Milwaukee Kringlegate

A story by WTMJ-TV Milwaukee has led to a special prosecutor's investigation into possible voting irregularities. Those irregularities involve campaign workers' handing out coins and pastry to mentally disabled patients at a Kenosha, Wis., residential-facility bingo party just prior to their casting absentee ballots.

Both a paid and a volunteer worker for state Attorney General and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jim Doyle were at the Dayton Residential Care facility while reporter Scott Friedman was in attendance. Friedman said the staffer left when she saw the TV camera, but the volunteer gave residents quarters and kringle, a popular local pastry.

"The question is," Friedman noted, "whether these things were given out with the intent to induce someone to vote a particular way. These are people who don't have a lot, but they are qualified to vote." Among the votes allegedly cast was one by a convicted felon in apparent violation of the law.

Although Doyle has tried to distance himself from the incident, at a debate a few days later, several dozen demonstrators arrived waving kringle and wearing bingo cards.

WMAQ-TV lead sportscaster dies

WMAQ-TV Chicago lead sportscaster Darrian Chapman died suddenly last Wednesday at 37, while preparing to play hockey. He had moved to Chicago from WRC-TV Washington in 2000. The station said cardiac arrest was the suspected cause of death. Chapman had a history of heart trouble. He is survived by his wife, Deborah, and two children, Marissa and Jordan.

WMAQ-TV General Manager Larry Wert called Chapman "a special talent and a special person." News Vice President Frank Whittaker noted that Chapman "loved sports, loved to compete, loved what he did and loved Chicago." News Director Vickie Burns called the loss to the station "immeasurable."

WRC-TV Sports Director George Michael, who brought Chapman into TV from radio hockey play-by-play, recalled that Chapman had always wanted to score goals playing hockey, "which he was doing," and had always wanted to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, "which he also did during the Olympics in Salt Lake City."

Sinclair group re-ups with Fox

Sinclair Broadcast Group and Cunningham Broadcasting said Wednesday they had reached an agreement to renew the affiliations of all 20 of their Fox stations—including Sinclair's and the ones it operates for Cunningham under LMAs.

In Baltimore, that means Sinclair's flagship WBFF(TV) will continue as the local Fox affiliate, while Fox-owned WUTB(TV) continues as a UPN affiliate.

Sinclair also said it and Cunningham will continue to participate in Fox's inventory-buyback program. The affiliation agreements run until July 2005. Under the terms of the buyback, Fox continues to guarantee the affiliates 105 spots per week, which the stations can sell locally.