News organizations don't usually pay for interviews, but WPXI's cable outlet, PCNC, opened its wallet to pay for the Rev. Richard Rossi and his wife to fly to Pittsburgh in exchange for an interview.
Rossi, who was accused of trying to kill his wife and later pleaded no contest to aggravated assault, was scheduled to appear with his wife last night on PCNC's "Night Talk With John McIntire" and this morning at 10 a.m. on "Honsberger Live!"
"That would not be unusual for them," said WPXI general manager John Howell of PCNC's decision to fly in a guest. "I don't think we fly a lot of people in, we don't have the budget for it, but I know we drive people up and make sure they get here.
"And it's not unusual for talk shows in our business to fly guests in, and there certainly seems to be a lot of interest in this guy."
But Rossi also taped an interview with WPXI's Alan Jennings for last night's 11 p.m. news on WPXI. That's where it gets sticky, because Howell said WPXI does not pay to transport interview subjects.
"There was discussion about that," Howell said. "It's an interesting position to be in. We want to be at arm's length, but he's going to be in our building and if [PCNC] brings him in, we want to interview him if he's here."
Some TV insiders see it as an end run, using PCNC to procure Rossi for WPXI during the highly competitive November sweeps period. WTAE news director Bob Longo said his station last tried to get an interview with Rossi in May.
"It didn't happen back then and kind of went away," Longo said. "A few weeks ago we got a call saying you can have that interview, all you have to do is fly him and his family out there, which just doesn't sit right with us. We don't pay to transport, we don't pay to interview."
COMING AND GOING: WPGH/WCWB will lay off several behind-the-scenes personnel as part of a restructuring, general manager Michael Norten said. Instead of two people in the master control room -- one for WPGH, one for WCWB -- there will be only one, a common practice in situations where two stations are operated out of the same building, Norten said.
Two videographers for Channel 53's 10 p.m. news will be let go at the end of the year.
"But we're actually adding to the sales staff, so when the year is over we'll have more people at the station than before or at least the same number," Norten said. "It's not a matter of cutting positions from an expense standpoint, it's more of a restructuring and making everything as efficient as possible."
Over at WTAE, reporter Shannon Perrine has joined the staff from WGAL, the NBC affiliate in Lancaster, where she worked in the station's Harrisburg bureau. At WTAE the Moon native will work out of the Beaver/Butler bureau and Tonia Caruso will relocate to WTAE's headquarters in Wilkinsburg.