Station Break

Sinclair centralizing

Sinclair Broadcasting, which is already studying a centralized approach to weather for its 60-plus stations (B&C, 1/7), is looking into centralizing other areas of news. Joe DeFeo, news director at Sinclair's flagship WBFF-TV Baltimore, temporarily relocated to the company's Hunt Valley, Md., headquarters last week for preliminary research and planning toward central produc-tion of national news and possibly sports. Sinclair has already centralized much of its promotion production in Baltimore.As in the weathercast, DeFeo says, centralizing would be for Sinclair stations not currently doing newscasts—with no plans to replace existing newscasts. About half the group's 60-plus stations either do not do news, he said, or share newscasts with other local stations.

But the possibility of such a measure will likely raise con-cerns in Sinclair news ranks. The company has recently eliminated newscasts and openly ties its news operations to profitability. This month, it shut its news department at WXLV-TV Winston-Salem, N.C. It pulled the plug at its ABC affiliate KDNL-TV St. Louis late last year and at WTWC-TV Tallahassee, Fla., in 2000. More than 100 jobs were eliminated.

Anchor wins indiscrimination Case

Former WTSP(TV) Saint Petersburg,Fla., anchor Pat Minarcin was awarded nearly $300,000 in an arbitration stemming from his 1999 lawsuit against Gannett alleging age discrimination. The award includes back pay and punitive damages.

The American Arbitration Association Employment Arbitration Tribunal, to which the case was referred by a clause in Minarcin's contract, found it easier to justify Minarcin's removal as lead anchor, given the station's reliance on research, than its failure to reassign him. The tribunal noted that it had reassigned younger anchors and offered further employment.

Minarcin, noting he felt vindicated by the decision, said he'd been told the station would reassign him. His salary continued for 18 months after he left the station, but he said his reputation suffered and his health deteriorated, warranting medical treatment. Minarcin, who had been a newspaperman prior to going into television, now works as an editor at the Tampa Tribune. His wife, Jennifer Howe, remains a reporter and anchor at WTSP.

Steve Mauldin, WTSP general manager at the time, now with CBS-owned WFOR-TV Miami, disputed Minarcin's contention that the station had promised to find a place for him and disagreed with the decision. "The audience made the decision," he said. "If Hugh Downs or Barbara Walters were available, I'd hire them. It's not about age."

Owned Chi Eye gets new anchor guy: that's a Mora

CBS-owned WBBM-TV Chicago has hired Antonio Mora, currently news anchor at Good Morning America, to anchor its 5 and 10 p.m. weekday news, alongside Tracy Townsend. He is expected to begin in February.

The station decided to replace David Kerley following November sweeps. WBBM-TV has undergone numerous changes in its newscasts—including 2000's critically praised but ratings-troubled serious approach led by current CBS correspondent Carol Marin. But it has not become competitive with NBC O&O WMAQ-TV and market leader ABC-owned WLS-TV Chicago.

Mora has been with ABC since 1994 and co-anchor at GMA
since 1998. He has been a regular substitute anchor at World News Tonight.

New role for Barberie

Popular Los Angeles local and Fox network personality Jillian Barberie said on her syndicated show Good Day Live
Wednesday that she has agreed to appear in the long-running stage production The Vagina Monologues.

Barberie will have to fit the play into her already busy schedule, which includes weather reports for KTTV(TV), co-hosting Good Day Live
and appearing on Fox's NFL Pre-Game Show. She has also acted on the syndicated show V.I.P.

Going back to glory

WGN-TV Chicago says Michael Jordan's return to Chicago Jan. 7 with the Washington Wizards brought the station's highest-rated Bulls telecast since the glory days in which Jordan was a member of the team and the Bulls won six championships. The game scored a 9.4/16, best since March 1997.