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Station Break

Pea-soup programming

If the thick, cool fog that defied local forecasts made it a great Massachusetts' Patriot's Day for Boston Marathon runners, it proved a logistical nightmare for WBZ-TV and WCVB-TV Boston, which together spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to broadcast the highly anticipated race wire to wire.

The unusually heavy fog over start-site Hopkinton grounded news choppers and not only prevented the anticipated sweeping overhead shots of the 17,000 runners beginning the scenic course but took out an important part of the transmission sequence for video shots in ground vehicles. It was only the second time in the nearly 20 years the race has been on the air in full that the choppers were grounded.

"We were really up against it," said WCVB-TV sports producer Matt Smith. Prior to the beginning of the race, when the fog wasn't burning off, "we told our people, 'We don't have the pictures. You're going to have to tell the people what's going on—in detail. It will be like radio."

In time, the choppers were able to take to the skies—at least to the lower parts. The silver lining to all those clouds was that the ratings at Smith's station actually improved over the year before. He suspects that the same weather that hampered the race coverage kept people indoors watching TV on a spring day normally more suited to outdoor activity.

Trial TV

WPRI-TV Providence, R.I., last week launched a new 4:30 p.m. newscast dedicated to the racketeering trial of Mayor Vincent Cianci, Jr. The station, General Manager Jay Howell said, has leased office space near the federal courthouse and has put together a mini-studio there. Jack White will be the main reporter at trial, but WPRI-TV has also hired former WLNE(TV) New Bedford, Mass., reporter Sean Daley for the broadcast. Daley had covered Cianci for years and spent the last few years working as an information officer for an area sheriff's department.

Locals believe it's easily the biggest Rhode Island trial since that of Klaus von Bulow and will garner major coverage locally. "It's our version of the O.J. trial," Howell said.

Powell joins WHUT

WHUT-TV Washington named broadcaster and technology guru Adam Clayton Powell III as its new general manager. Powell most recently co-produced a documentary on the life and career of his famed father—the late New York congressman and civil rights leader Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.—while on leave from his position overseeing technology programs at the Freedom Forum. He has been a general manager before, at KMPP(TV) San Francisco.

Powell says that building a stronger Web presence for the urban PBS station will be a priority, not merely to expand the station's brand, but as an opportunity to bridge the technology gap that affects minorities. "That will be important," he said, "especially with younger viewers. We'll be working with government officials, foundations and experts to try and develop innovative ways of delivering community services using combinations of over-the-air television, cable and the Internet."

WCAU replaces Reed

Following Sharon Reed's departure over some questionable e-mail to a colleague either sent by her or sent on her behalf, WCAU(TV) Philadelphia has hired Tiffany McElroy from KATU(TV) Portland, Ore., as morning anchor. McElroy and the station's new 10 a.m. news show will both debut April 29.

Life Lessons

An hour special on drug use from Fox affiliate XETV(TV) San Diego will be aired in two languages on four different area stations. "Ecstasy: Are You Killing Your Brain?" is the first of a series called Life Lessons. The program will air in English on XUPN(TV), on April 27 at 7 p.m., and on XETV at 6 the next night; and in Spanish on KBNT(TV) April 27 at 10 a.m. and at 11 a.m. on XHAS(TV). According to KETV, the San Diego Unified School District plans to make the special required viewing for all students.

A Slater finish

Actor and Other Half
co-host Mario "Slater" Lopez ran in the Boston Marathon last week on behalf of WCVB-TV (see item, this page)—for which he reported his progress—and Big Brothers of America. Despite a foot injury in the weeks leading up to the race, the former Saved by the Bell
star finished, with a time of 5:44.