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TV Notes: Cannon, Pompeani swap anchor duties

Wednesday, April 26, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

KDKA-TV has shuffled its deck as Don Cannon and Bruce Pompeani switch positions in the anchor lineup.

Cannon, who joined KDKA as a morning anchor in September, will move to the weekend anchor spot alongside Jacque Smith. Pompeani, who has been a weekend anchor since 1997, will be teamed with Susan Barnett weekday mornings starting today.

Assistant news director Mike Machi said the new configuration will "better maximize both of their talents."

"By making this change we put Don in a format that he's more comfortable in and his fans will find him," Machi said. "A lot of Don Cannon fans don't watch the morning news, as we found out in the last six months. We think we can strengthen ourselves in two areas and not diminish ourselves in any area. We can improve our ratings in both areas by a simple change."

KDKA's morning news perennially ranks third. Cannon's addition resulted in flat ratings last November. But the morning news ratings improved by a full ratings point during February compared to a year prior. The May sweeps begin tomorrow.

"This is not a ratings-driven, book to book thing," Machi said. "We're thinking long-term about where our major players will be most effective and that's why we made the change."

Cannon returned to Pittsburgh TV five years after his departure from WTAE, where he'd worked for 25 years.

Cannon has struggled with alcohol in the past and discussed his own battles when he was hired by KDKA. Machi said Cannon remains in good health and his reassignment has nothing to do with any past problems.

Although Cannon will move to the weekend anchor desk, he won't become a three-days-a-week street reporter. Machi said Cannon will devote more time to sit-down interviews.

"We've had a lot of positive viewer reaction to those, so he'll do more of those as we go," Machi said.

Cannon could not be reached for comment.

Pompeani said he's not a morning person, but he's prepared to adapt to the new schedule, which will also include reporting for the early evening newscasts.

"There's a lot of growth to be had in the morning, and if I can help them achieve their goals, that's great," Pompeani said.

GAMBLE IN THE MORNING: Ellen Gamble, WTAE's weekday morning traffic reporter, has been filling in as weekend morning anchor since Christina Arangio's departure in February. Yesterday she was named Arangio's successor.

WTAE news director Bob Longo said Gamble will continue to do traffic reports some weekdays.

"Ellen is still a big part of the morning show," Longo said. "For the time being she'll be on three days a week and we'll make more use of Sky 4 when she's not available."

The station is still looking at its options for replacing weekday morning anchor Melanie Shafer, who will leave WTAE at the end of May sweeps.

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