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WQED to debut nightly newsmagazine

Friday, November 19, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Trumpets blared in Studio B yesterday as WQED President George Miles announced plans for a new nightly newsmagazine program, "On Q."

"Black Horizons" host Chris Moore, KDKA-TV anchor Stacy Smith and singer/songwriter Carol Lee Espy will host "On Q," which will air live at 7:30 p.m. weekdays beginning Jan. 17.

Former KDKA-TV anchor Patti Burns will be among the free-lance contributors to the program, reporting on the resurgence of Southwestern Pennsylvania, whether it involves business, medicine or culture.

"There's so much happening in this region that doesn't get covered," Burns said. "This is going to be a vehicle to bring those stories to the community."

From left, Carol Lee Espy, Stacy Smith and Chris Moore host the new nightly newsmagazine "On Q," premiering in January on WQED. 

Carolyn Wean, WQED vice president of production, media and distribution, said "On Q" will include coverage of everything from business to the arts to religion, combining elements of "Nightline" and "Evening Magazine."

Deborah Acklin, WQED's executive producer of local programming, said most nights "On Q" will explore a local issue, "though not necessarily a deadly serious issue, but always an important one."

It will begin with a story by the show's staff reporter, Michael Bartley, who left the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee about three months ago to return to Pittsburgh, his hometown.

"On Q" is fully funded for three years at $1.5 million per year through grants from the Heinz Endowments, the R.K. Mellon Foundation, the Eberly Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

"On Q" will have about 10 staff members plus two full-time hosts (Smith will continue his duties anchoring at noon and 6 p.m. on KDKA-TV). But the list of contributors -- free-lance reporters who are paid on a per-piece basis -- is lengthy.

Among them will be Carnegie Museum of Natural History Director Jay Apt, who will report on high-tech science and space exploration; Pittsburgh Business Times Editor Betsy Benson, covering emerging companies and trends; attorney and political analyst Jon Delano, specializing in politics; and WQED cooking show guru Chris Fennimore, who will offer a cooking segment called "Made in Pittsburgh."

WQED producer Rick Sebak will highlight local history and books, Adam Smith of the National Black Programming Consortium will cover urban issues and Andy Warhol Museum Director Tom Sokolowski will cover the arts.

Other free-lancers will cover music, gardening, religion, medicine and the environment, among other topics.

The participation of Smith and Burns lends further credence to WQED's nickname: "KDKA East." Several executives at WQED and three of the production staff members of "On Q" previously worked at KDKA.

KDKA-TV general manager Gary Cozen said Smith will be allowed to work on "On Q" because it doesn't compete with KDKA for local news or advertising dollars.

"We thought it was certainly an interesting opportunity for Stacy and if there's any station that has an audience similar to WQED, it is KDKA," Cozen said.

Smith will have a half-hour between the end of the 6 p.m. news and the start of "On Q" to rush from the KDKA studios Downtown to WQED in Oakland.

There are plans to make the Friday night shows a panel discussion with informed local personalities talking about news of the week.

The introduction of "On Q" means "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" will move to 6:30 p.m. "The Nightly Business Report" gets bumped to 11 p.m., where it will be followed by a repeat of that day's "On Q." The show will also repeat the next weekday at 12:30 p.m.

As "On Q" prepares to launch, WQED's "UPMC HealthNews" won't return after December. Wean said UPMC won't continue funding the program and medical coverage will be folded into "On Q." Host Ann Devlin may contribute to "On Q" after giving birth to her second child in January.

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