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Tuned In: PCNC plans to air its own morning show

Thursday, November 07, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Morning TV will get more local next month when PCNC launches a live one-hour 7 a.m. weekday newscast.

"Pittsburgh This Morning on PCNC" will debut Dec. 9 with one news anchor and an emphasis on longer weather and traffic reports. It replaces a repeat of the 6 a.m. hour of news that aired on WPXI.

WPXI news director Pat Maday said Bob Bruce will anchor when the show launches. After a few months, Newlin Archinal will rotate in and Bruce will rotate out.

Though it will air opposite NBC's "Today" on WPXI, ABC's "Good Morning, America" on WTAE and CBS's revamped "The Early Show" on KDKA, Maday said, it will not be a fluffy, feature-filled program.

"We're not going to produce a local 'Today' show," Maday said. "It's going to be newsy, the type of newscast you'd expect out of us, with more weather and traffic."

Maday said the idea of a live morning news program on PCNC has been around for several years, and the rise in viewership for morning newscasts makes it a risk worth taking.

"Everybody doesn't leave for work at 7 a.m.," he said. "People can benefit from traffic and weather at 7."

The first weather break during "Today" on WPXI will be taped while the PCNC news airs live, but the 7:26 and 7:56 a.m. news breaks on Channel 11 will be live (PCNC will be in commercial or a taped piece during those breaks).

The station will hire a producer for the PCNC program, but that's the only addition to staff planned.

PCNC station manager Mark Barash said the 7 a.m. news will fill a need for viewers who want local weather, traffic and news reports after 7 a.m. He's not concerned about eating into the "Today" audience on WPXI.

"Different people want different things," Barash said. "We're in our 10th year with programming that goes right opposite all the things on 'PXI, so we're used to it."

WTAE news director Bob Longo said the competition would be fiercer if PCNC were a broadcast station.

"I don't see it as a threat, and I wish them well," Longo said. "If I was a CBS station, I'd tell them to go pound salt with that two-hour show they've got on. You'd hope a PCNC product wouldn't be any worse than 'The Early Show.' "

Beginning Jan. 1, PCNC will bring advertising sales and control of commercial breaks in house (that work was previously done by a division of AT&T Broadband). Barash said that means there will be less of a stutter going to commercials and more timely promotion for WPXI programs.

Best of all, that five-year-old "Jeopardy!" commercial will be toast.

Sweeps!

The most interesting story so far this month isn't a prepackaged sweeps piece, but a mystery that's unfolding in Indiana County.

WPXI's Rick Earle reported on it Friday during the evening news, the story of a man who died of cadmium poisoning and the plans to exhume a woman to see if she died of the same cause.

Earle's piece was a little confusing. It didn't establish why investigators think there might be commonalities or "what the connection might be." It seemed like a prologue with more to come. Other stations filled in a few blanks in their own reports.

WTAE's Jon Greiner said in his report Friday at 11 that the coroner says "there appears to be a link" between the two deaths. Monday evening, KDKA's Mary Berecky filed her own report on the case, including mention of a woman police wouldn't name who knew both victims and dated the man. Earle interviewed a woman who knew both victims and dated the man. One and the same? Maybe future reports will clarify it further.

Consumer news

WPXI's Becky Thompson had an intriguing report Monday at 5 on the wide variance in select generic prescription drug costs at area stores. Granted, a short TV news report can't go into much depth, but it at least encourages consumers to shop around.

One frustration: Although Thompson showed which stores had the lowest price on some drugs, she gave one instance of a drug that cost more than $100 at some stores and only $16 at another, but she didn't name the store.

A similar bit of information was missing from a KDKA report on restaurant safety. Aping WPXI's regular restaurant checks, KDKA's Paul Martino reported on restaurants cited by the Health Department and then went in with a hidden camera to see if corrections had been made.

At the outset of the report, he listed a litany of problems, including one restaurant that was cited for having rat droppings in the kitchen, but the restaurant wasn't named. If you're going to turn my stomach with the prospect of rat droppings, at least tell me which restaurant.

Tie-ins

Local affiliates love those easily promoted stories that relate to entertainment series, but KDKA's stories that spin off of "CSI" and now "Without a Trace" are pretty decent. Although promos use the names of the shows to generate viewer interest, the reports themselves -- a missing person case last week and especially the science of gun fingerprinting Monday -- could stand on their own without the network tie-in.

On the other hand, WTAE's Friday "Ask Dr. Phil" segment featured the TV chatterbox pontificating in the most general terms on questions about kids and sex.

Election coverage

I'm the first to cast a dubious eye on declarations from a TV station about its commitment to cover a particular story, but WTAE's "Commitment 2002" election coverage really did seem to yield more stories in the month before the election than I saw on rival stations.

Pointless promo

In Channel 11's latest weather promo, the announcer promises, "We're not going to spend time giving you the weather in Iowa or Oklahoma."

Does any local station do that?

In search of ...

WQED's syndication guru T.J. Lubinsky is seeking the help of Pittsburghers in solving a mystery. A recent episode of WQED's "The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show" featured a girl group from Pittsburgh called The Castle Sisters.

Lubinsky suspects they may have been from Castle Shannon, but he's had no luck tracking them down.

"I've checked around town; no one knows who they are -- but they must have been something to make it to Ed's stage," Lubinsky wrote in an e-mail.

Anyone with information on the Castle Sisters can contact Lubinsky at 412-622-1369.

Channel surfing

Deborah Norville is in town for a charity event, so tonight's "Inside Edition" (7 p.m.) will be taped at the syndicated show's local affiliate, WTAE. One of tonight's stories is expected to be on celebrities who grew up in Pittsburgh. ... Tours of factories located in the state are a regular feature on PCN, the Pennsylvania version of C-SPAN. The new book "PCN Tours: A Companion to the Popular Television Series" ($29.95 paperback, Camino Books), written by PCN CEO Brian Lockman, offers an armchair visit to factories that manufacture trucks, furniture, caskets, marshmallow "Peeps" and handbells. ... Earlier this week WQED tested its digital signal in the multicasting mode; no premiere date yet for when the station multicasts its digital signal on a regular basis.


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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