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WPXI hires news exec from Atlanta

Friday, November 30, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A news director from WPXI's sister station in Atlanta will succeed John Howell at the helm of Channel 11. Cox Television yesterday named Ray Carter vice president and general manager of WPXI, effective Monday.

Howell, who will be 55 next month, announced his plans to retire in late September. His last day will be Dec. 14, after which he and his wife, Gail, will head to California for a couple of months before returning to their home in Pittsburgh.

Carter has been news director at WSB-TV in Atlanta, an ABC affiliate in the ninth-largest TV market, since 1997. He followed Al Blinke, a former news director at WPXI who now runs the news operation at KDKA, into that job.

"I know Ray, and he's going to be terrific for this television market and for Pittsburgh," Howell said yesterday. "He's got a wife and four kids, and they're really excited to be moving here. ... Ray is inheriting a really wonderful television station with remarkable people, and the community can expect to continue to be served in a wonderful way."

Howell will spend the next two weeks introducing Carter around town and helping make the transition a smooth one. "Our company typically puts people in place for a long time," Howell said, predicting an extended stay for Carter.

Before Atlanta, Carter worked at more than half a dozen radio and TV stations in a range of markets. He had stints in Provo, Utah; Sioux City, Iowa; Binghamton, N.Y.; Salisbury, Md.; Des Moines and Salt Lake City. Except for some early work in promotions, Carter has concentrated on the news side of the business.

"Ray has demonstrated great leadership and judgment in the news industry," Bruce Baker, vice president of Cox Television Affiliates, said in a statement. "His experience and decision-making ability will be integral to the future leadership of WPXI."

Carter inherits a far different station than Howell did in 1984. Today, it uses the slogan "coverage you can count on" (the same one employed by WSB). Almost two decades ago, Channel 11 was practically fourth in the ratings, and Howell told staffers, "We have to fight and claw." And they did.

When Howell joined WPXI, he acknowledged the station had an image problem -- it was the wrestling station or "Chiller Theater" station. A former news director, Howell wanted viewers to consider it a news and information station.

To help meet that goal, WPXI created the city's first 5:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts, along with the first weekend morning news show. The GM also launched a cable news channel, PCNC, and started a 10 p.m. newscast there.

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