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Station Break

New Gray Area in Albany

Albany, N.Y.—It took several months in court and another 90 days sitting behind the scenes, but John Gray, former anchor at Hubbard Broadcasting's WNYT, finally got his face time last week on crosstown rival WXXA.

Gray departed the market-leading NBC affiliate last year when he was passed over for a prime anchor post. He then sued to get out of a non-compete agreement so he could go to work at WXXA, a Fox affiliate owned by Clear Channel.

"What really attracted me to them was that they are a young station and not the No. 1 station. It is not just 'Come in and read the news and go home,'" Gray told Albany's Business Review.

It's certainly not No. 1. WXXA's 5 p.m. newscast did not garner enough viewers to register in the November Nielsen ratings, and its 10 p.m. show lost 40% of its audience.

No Calls, Please

Macon, Ga,—WMGT, the NBC affiliate in the No. 122 market, has issued a cattle call—for a news director. The news chief would get to hire staff, buy equipment, and develop a newscast, all from scratch.

General Manager George Jobin calls the new job at the Morris Newspaper Corp. station "an exciting opportunity to build your own product with a major network affiliate." When it hits the air late this year, the program would be the market's third locally produced newscast.

A Very Modest Debut

The new 10 p.m. newscast on Viacom's WUPA Atlanta, a UPN station, made barely a blip in the overnights, drawing about a 3 share for the time period. But it debuted on a tough night—April 5—when Georgia Tech was playing the University of Connecticut for the NCAA Championship on CBS affiliate WGCL.

On the plus side, the news show did manage to hold about 75% of its lead-in audience for its first two nights, says General Manager Meg LaVigne. "We know that it is going to take time to build an audience. We want the program to deliver a target audience a little older than the typical UPN viewer."

The first half of the one-hour telecast is produced by WXIA, the Gannett-owned NBC station, under what LaVigne describes as a "long-term agreement."

The second half-hour, called Atlanta Tonight, is an Entertainment Tonight-type magazine program produced by Career Sports and Entertainment, an Atlanta marketing firm.

WXIA anchor Karyn Greer (above) hosts the news segment, which uses live shots and packages from WXIA field crews.

UPN News at 10
is up against some formidable competition from Fox powerhouse WAGA, which runs an hour-long newscast then.

Bye Bye, Beutien

Toledo, Ohio—At a time when the average tenure of a TV news director is about two years, C.J. Beutien was one of the old-timers. Beutien abruptly resigned last week after more than a decade running Toledo's dominant news shop at Liberty Corp.'s WTOL.

His unexpected departure was followed closely by the obligatory memo from General Manager Bob Chirdon, which read, in part, "The task of segueing to the next era of WTOL News 11 leadership begins now ... the first challenge is to ensure a smooth transition."

Beutien is pondering jobs elsewhere, although he says he rather likes it where he is. "This is a much nicer city than its reputation would suggest. It's a really nice place to live." John Butte, former news director at cable's Ohio News Network, will run the shop for the time being.

Brown Out in Boston

Boston—Another veteran news manager is leaving the fold. Peter Brown has exited Viacom's WBZ for a PR gig at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He spent two decades at the station, the last one as news director.

The station's newscasts typically finish third behind WHDH and WCVB, although WBZ placed second at 11 p.m. in February, thanks to strong network lead-ins. Assistant News Director Matt Ellis will run the shop pending a permanent replacement.