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Station Break

Tech Director is murdered

Danielle Cipriani, weekend news-operations director at WFLA-TV Tampa, Fla., was found dead July 7 at her apartment, an apparent homicide victim. Police reported no motive or suspects. Colleagues drove to her apartment when she'd missed her Saturday-evening shift. Noting that the door was unlocked, they called the police, who found her dead. She had apparently suffered blunt-force trauma. The station's operations chief, Rick McEwen, called Cipriani "very professional and passionate about her work" and said the station was shocked by the news.

News Director Forrest Carr said he was moving his family from Tucson, Ariz., where he'd been news director at KGUN(TV), when he heard about Cipriani's death. "We're all speechless. None of us have any experience in dealing with anything like this." WFLA-TV chartered transportation so station staff could attend Cipriani's funeral. Carr noted that Bill Berra, the new news director at Tampa's WFTS(TV), offered to help out in staffing so Cipriani's colleagues could attend the funeral. Carr didn't think the station would need the help but said he was touched by the offer.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

WBAL-TV Baltimore News Director Princell Hair will leave the Hearst-owned station to become corporate news director for the CBS station group. The move reunites Hair and CBS Vice President for News Joel Cheatwood, who worked together for Sunbeam Television in Miami and for NBC in Chicago.

The group will be adding some new newscasts over the next few months, sources say, where duopolies with the former Paramount stations will allow some shared resources.

Hearst let Hair out of his contract for the opportunity, but he will not be advising any of the CBS stations that compete in markets with Hearst stations, at least for a while. That will keep him out of Boston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, where he garnered good reviews as he led WBAL-TV the past three years. He'll likely take office space at CBS' Washington facility.

Hearst's quick hair-loss remedy

Hearst has already named Margaret Cronan, who will leave Hearst's WPBF(TV) West Palm Beach, Fla., to replace Princell Hair as news director at its WBAL-TV Baltimore (see previous item). Sources say Cronan had her choice of big jobs and stayed with Hearst despite an offer to take the reins at CBS' KYW-TV Philadelphia.

Replacing Cronan will be Joe Coscia, after a brief stint at CBS' KDKA-TV Pittsburgh. Sources say he also had been courted by CBS' KUTV-TV Salt Lake City.

Covington not Philly bound

With all the activity among CBS and Hearst stations' news departments (see previous), the announcement by former KYW-TV News Director Randy Covington that he is retiring after 10 years at WIS(TV) Columbia, S.C., fueled speculation that he might be returning to Philadelphia. But both Covington and the station said that is not the case.

Reporter charges overtime abuse

A lawsuit from a reporter charges WFOR-TV Miami with overtime abuses, contending that the station violates federal law by using comp time instead of pay and that it failed to record the overtime properly. The suit was filed by Jack Hambrick, a second-generation WFOR-TV staffer.

Hambrick's attorney, Tony Bogdan, said, "The issue comes to a head when an employer starts abusing its employees." Bogdan says the alleged overtime abuse at the station comes from "a consistent staffing problem." A few staffers who talked with BROADCASTING & CABLE agreed and said the station's overtime system is arbitrary and even punitive.

News Director Shannon High said she does not believe that those sentiments are representative of staff feelings. High said the shop is not understaffed, is well-supported by CBS, deals with overtime fairly and is a good place to work. She said the station will fight the lawsuit.