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Tuned In: Mine coverage benefits KD's 4 p.m. newscast

Saturday, July 27, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Timing is everything, especially in television.

KDKA began its 4 p.m. newscast Monday, and a huge story developed Wednesday night, with workers trapped in a Somerset County mine.

Time became a virtue again on Thursday when a news conference was scheduled for 4 p.m., neatly coinciding with the station's new hour of news. WPXI and WTAE don't have newscasts at 4, but they pre-empted their regular programming.

Would they have done that, say, last week, before the advent of KD's news in that time period?

WTAE news director Bob Longo said KD's newscast played a role in his station's thinking.

"We did it because it was a big story first and foremost, but secondarily, you don't want to give the competition a jump on a story of that magnitude."

At press time, WPXI news director Pat Maday had not returned a call seeking comment.

It's too early to tell what the long-term ramifications will be, but so far KDKA's 4 p.m. news is quite competitive. It came out of the gate Monday tying WPXI's "Judge Judy" for second place behind WTAE's first-place "Oprah Winfrey Show." Tuesday and Thursday, KDKA's 4 p.m. news was No. 1 (Wednesday it was No. 3).

It also helped boost KD's 5 p.m. news out of third place (No. 1 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, No. 2 on Monday).

KD's John Shumway, who always does well taking technical subjects and making them easy to understand for viewers, brought his skill to the mine story, capably explaining the rescue efforts.

WPXI sent David Johnson to the scene, and WTAE, in a repeat of its Sept. 11 Flight 93 coverage, had Mike Clark and Michelle Wright in Somerset.

The tackiest thing so far in the coverage? WTAE's decision to title its coverage "TRAPPED!" The exclamation point gives it a tabloidy feel, but it's also a piece of punctuation often associated with comedy (e.g. the movies "Airplane!" and "That Thing You Do!").

Longo said he changed it Friday morning to "Trapped Miners."

"The more I saw it, the less I liked it," Longo said, adding that he was aware of the need for sensitivity because the story "could go badly still."

Schedule change

WPXI had planned to carry NBC's telecast of the 1996 Sylvester Stallone movie "Daylight" tonight but because of the content opted to put on 1991's "Doc Hollywood" instead.

"Daylight" is about an explosion that traps people inside a tunnel that fills with water.

"We just thought, considering the similarity to the tragic events in Somerset County, it would be material that would be better for another time," said WPXI program director Mark Barash.

Grammar patrol

David E. Kelley's new Fox drama "girls club" has its title in lower case for no specific reason.

"Sometimes when you write a script and you look at a pilot, you actually look at the font [of the title] and say, 'Does it feel right or wrong?'" Kelley said. "You actually look at five or six fonts, and for whatever reason, and it's probably arbitrary, you decide on one and we picked that one."

When a reporter suggested the title also needs an apostrophe, Kelley said it might get one by the time the show airs.

NBC's "Good Morning Miami" won't add the comma between "Morning" and "Miami," just as ABC's "Good Morning America" opts out of the correct grammatical construction.

"It really just boiled down to what we thought looked pretty," said "Good Morning Miami" executive producer Max Mutchnick.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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