Station Break

Pageant Trumps Dallas Storms

The 10 p.m. newscast on KXAS Dallas placed first in May for the eighth consecutive sweeps period, but a decision by station management last week didn't win any kudos from viewers.

KXAS opted to stay with its live telecast of the Miss Universe pageant on a night when violent storms struck, causing the biggest power outage in the Dallas area in a decade. While competitors WFAA, KTVT, and KDFW went to continuous coverage, KXAS relied on cut-ins from weekend weatherman Steve MacLaughlin.

Chief meteorologist David Finfrock (above), who was off for the night, arrived in time to appear on the station's 10 p.m. newscast—which won its time period.

KXAS later ran a survey on its Web site, asking viewers whether they would prefer to see regularly scheduled programming or breaking updates during periods of severe weather. As of Tuesday, more than 70% of respondents said they wanted the weather reports.

Conspiracy theorists note: The Miss Universe pageant is jointly owned by NBC and Donald Trump, who's The Apprentice
was the network's most popular program this past season. NBC also owns KXAS.

Hartford Station's Graphic Gaffe

Hartford, Conn.—Viewers of WFSB's 5 p.m. newscast last Tuesday must have figured the station had a real scoop when a fleeting graphic appeared on their screens indicating that Connecticut Gov. John Rowland had quit. It was, as News Director Lyn Tolan concedes, an "unfortunate error."

The goof occurred during a story on the death of former President Ronald Reagan. The graphic was supposed to read "Remembering Reagan," but a producer apparently grabbed the wrong file, one that stated "Rowland Resigns."

Many viewers might have missed the mistake, which appeared for only a few seconds. Rowland is under investigation by a legislative committee that could recommend his impeachment. WFSB anchor Denise D'Ascenzo caught the error and apologized.

Lands in Richmond...

Richmond, Va.—WWBT is counting on Ellen DeGeneres to help dig the station out of a midday funk. The NBC affiliate, owned by Jefferson Pilot, added The Ellen DeGeneres Show
at 11 a.m. last week, displacing the canceled Living It Up! With Ali & Jack.

WWBT wins almost every other daypart but typically finishes behind rival WTVR at noon. Ellen
will go head to head with WTVR's popular The Price Is Right.

...And Challenges the Talk-Show Queen in Bay Area

San FranciscoThe Ellen DeGeneres Show
helped propel KNTV's 5 p.m. newscast into second-place in May. Household ratings for the news show soared 73% over May 2003, as the NBC O&O moved ahead of competitor KPIX. NBC purchased KNTV last year after removing its affiliation from KRON.

Running Ellen
at 4 p.m., KNTV closed to within four share points of time-period leader The Oprah Winfrey Show, the closest "Ellen vs. Oprah" race among Nielsen metered markets.

Veteran Philly Anchor Steps Down

Philadelphia—A rare nerve disease has claimed the career of one of the city's longest-tenured news anchors. Lisa Thomas-Laury, co-anchor of the 5 p.m. newscast at ABC-owned WPVI, effectively retired last week after 27 years with the station. Thomas-Laury has been off the air for much of the past year undergoing treatment for neuropathy.

"Lisa and her doctors have decided that she needs more time to focus exclusively on getting better," colleague Jim Gardner told viewers.

Although Thomas-Laury is expected to be absent for some time, Gardner held open the possibility that she may someday return. "When her health permits," he said, "the door will always be open."

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