Station Break

Scranton synergy

Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., stations WBRE-TV and WYOU(TV), already connected by an unusual arrangement in which they share facilities, a news director and other resources, have joined with the Scranton Times-Tribune in what the partners call "a cooperative news partnership that is part of a broader alliance of radio, television and newspapers in the region. The deal includes a working affiliation between the newspaper and the WYOU newsroom.

Reporter, cover thyself

WJAR(TV) Providence, R.I., reporter Jim Taricani found himself in the middle of the story when a special federal prosecutor was appointed to investigate the leak of a videotape containing evidence from the infamous Operation Plunderdome case. The case involves a protracted investigation into government corruption that has implicated many political figures, including Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci Jr. Taricani was the reporter who received the tape.

As such, he found himself reporting a first-person story and answering questions from other reporters. His news director, B.J. Finnell, said that, although he has full confidence in Taricani's ability to cover the story fairly and objectively, he would not be covering future stories on the investigation into the leak. "We knew that, eventually, he could become part of the story," Finnell said, although the station was not aware of the specific announcement of the special prosecutor. Taricani has said he would not reveal the source of the tape, even if threatened with jail.

Omaha Beef Tester is arrested

KETV(TV) Omaha's investigation into local law enforcement's treatment of complaints against officers will likely lead to a complaint itself.

Tester Richie Rivera, a former police officer who has done numerous similar stories for TV stations as a representative of The Police Complaint Center, was taken into custody by an officer who cited a law requiring people to produce identification. A Center spokesman says legal action is planned.

Attorneys and academics say there is no such law, despite the county sheriff's steadfast support of the officer. Rivera was not charged with failing to produce identification. He was arrested, ostensibly, for giving false information, but prosecutors quickly decided not to bring charges. The Sarpy County Attorney's office said it has not researched whether a law requiring production of identification exists.

The station's tape shows Rivera, who had inquired about the complaint procedure, becoming evasive when asked for his name and identification. In fact, he was taken into custody when he tried to leave rather than produce identification.

"We were shocked," said investigative reporter Carol Kloss, who said nothing similar had happened at other departments tested. Stations conducting such tests require that the tester not tell lies or provide false information but merely ask about the complaint procedure.

AFTRA complains about WPXI

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) Pittsburgh local has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board against WPXI-TV. The investigation into whether pro-union sympathizers were reprimanded unfairly and whether the station has been bargaining in bad faith will put off a vote on decertifying the union. Reporter Alan Jennings, who led a successful decertification effort at WTAE-TV four years ago, filed a petition with the NLRB to decertify the union at the station last month.

The local's Executive Director Mark Wirick said, "Before any vote may be fairly conducted, the NLRB should take a hard look at several circumstances that have tainted the atmosphere at the station. The same law that allows the decertification petition also requires that the process be free of interference by the station." Said Station General Manager John Howells, "We have not committed any unfair labor practices. This is a stalling tactic to delay the setting of a voting date."

Layoffs at WPRI-TV

The takeover last week of WPRI-TV Providence, R.I., by Sunrise Television from Clear Channel prompted some staff trimming. Among the five let go from the CBS affiliate were Ann Conway and Steve Wiczek, anchors on the low-rated morning show. Sandy DiPasquale, Sunrise's chief operating officer, will run the station now that General Manager Deborah Sinay, having announced earlier that she'd be leaving, has departed.

Morning Sparrow

Musical act Koko Taylor appeared when WMAQ-TV Chicago's Sweet Home Chicago debuted June 1. The late-morning local entertainment show is hosted by entertainment reporter and radio personality Jeanne Sparrow.

All news is local. Contact Dan Trigoboff at (301) 260-0923, e-mail
or fax (413) 254-4133.