Station Break

Tower collapses; two are killed

Two workers died Tuesday and three more were injured in the collapse of KDUH-TV Scottsbluff, Neb.'s nearly 2,000-foot tower in Box Butte County. The men killed were identified as Lawrence A. Sukalec, 59, and Daniel E. Goff, 25. They were not station employees but had been contracted by station owner Duhamel Broadcasting to prepare the tower to accommodate digital transmissions. The weather was perfect, station officials said, and there was no sign of wear or damage to the tower beforehand. The accident is under investigation locally and by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Three others working near KDUH-TV's adjacent building were injured but were treated and released at local hospitals. GM Scott Bruce said the tower was built in the early '70s, was among the tallest structures anywhere, and had recently been inspected and certified by the FCC. All that remained of it following the collapse was about 50 feet, he said. Several nearby vehicles were crushed, and fires were set by sparks from the downed tower. Only cable viewers could receive station programming.

Share & share alike

Wilkes-Barre, Pa., NBC affiliate WBRE-TV and CBS affiliate WYOU(TV), which have different owners but operate under a shared-services agreement, last week launched morning and midday news simulcasts. Al Zobel, news director for both stations, said each is operating its own master control for separate cut-ins and commercials and to keep the separate station bugs on the screen. Zobel likened it to creating a new show and syndicating it to two stations—albeit in the same market.

The programming can work better in the weather- and traffic-heavy mornings and midday than in other time slots, Zobel said, adding that the two stations will remain competitive in evening newscasts, each with a separate assistant news director.

"In trying to find an alternative to [dominant station] WNEP," said Zobel, "we're combining the best from each station. Our Monday noon newscast had three live shots. Alone, we would never have been able to produce that kind of newscast."

The WBBM-TV shuffle

WBBM-TV Chicago's new news director, Carol Fowler, has named Stacia Dubin to co-anchor the 5-7 a.m. news with Michael Ayala. Dubin will also join Mary Ann Childers as co-anchor at 11 a.m., and Ayala, who is a lawyer, will now report at 11 a.m. as well, specializing in the courts and criminal justice. Childers and Antonio Mora will co-anchor at 4:30 p.m. Vince Gerasole, who has been anchoring then, will now be a general-assignment reporter. Tracy Townsend will continue to anchor the 5 p.m. newscast with Mora and will do more reporting on education. Mora will continue to co-anchor the 10 p.m. newscast with Linda MacLennan.

On-air contrition

WHAS-TV Louisville, Ky., broke into programming Sept. 20 with the news that Kentucky Governor Paul Patton would hold a news conference admitting that he had had an affair with a political supporter but denying her claim—made to the station and in court—that he had turned regulators loose on a nursing home she owned after she ended their affair.

In a tearful press conference televised nationally later that day, Patton admitted that he had lied to WHAS-TV reporter Mark Hebert, who broke the story of the allegations. It was Hebert who first reported that the governor would admit to the affair, and, following the governor's admissions last week, he interviewed Patton's accuser, Tina Conner.

Members of the governor's family had criticized WHAS-TV's reporting prior to the governor's admissions, but the station stood by the story, which has shaken up Kentucky politics. Many observers are speculating on Patton's future, and some are calling for his resignation should Connor's reprisal charges prove true. Kentucky's Executive Branch Ethics Commission has launched an investigation.