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KDKA-TV to add morning news show

Thursday, August 14, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The news expansion at KDKA-TV continues. By the end of September, the station will add the one-hour "KDKA Morning Show" at 9 a.m., which will air opposite the third hour of "Today" on WPXI and "Live With Regis and Kelly" on WTAE.

News director Al Blinke said "Morning Show" will feature hard news, "but unlike our other newscasts, it will give us the opportunity to do some of the things we don't do on the other shows -- talk to celebrities and dignitaries, expanded interviews, things like that."

A new set is being built for this show to achieve a different visual look.

"You have a little different audience at 9 a.m.," Blinke said. "You're catering to people who are at home, whether they have kids or don't have kids. I think it's OK at this moment in time to create something that looks a little bit different."

Blinke said "Morning Show" will not necessarily be hosted by the morning news team and definitely not by well-liked morning anchor Susan Barnett, who will leave KDKA within the next two months to move closer to her fiance in Florida.

Barnett is in talks with KDKA's sister station, WFOR in Miami, about a job there.

"I am leaving because I've spent seven years pursuing my career, which has been absolutely wonderful, but now it's time to strike a balance," said Barnett, who joined KDKA in October 1999 and proved herself to be a talented anchor and reporter during her four years here. "I've met a wonderful man, and I'm going to get married."

She met Blairsville native Greg Persichetti through KDKA colleague Rebecca Hower, whose husband works at Mercy Hospital, where Persichetti had an internal medicine residency. Last month he started a three-year dermatology residency in Pembroke Pines, Fla., between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Now the search is on for Barnett's replacement.

"I always look at people from the outside, but I'm focusing on people from within," Blinke said.

Those candidates likely include weekend anchor Kristine Sorensen and reporters Jessica Borg and Kelli Olexia, who have done fill-in anchor work.

KDKA duped

Last Thursday on the KDKA-produced 10 p.m. news on WNPA, anchor Jennifer Antkowiak read an e-mail sent to the station by a supposed viewer. The e-mail, solicited by the station in response to the city layoffs, was signed with a name we can't print here, but it's along the lines of Bart Simpson calling Moe's bar and asking for Al K. Holic (only using a name that implies a part of the male anatomy).

Alert viewer Bruce Choder of Mt. Lebanon checked the phone book to see if, by chance, there was a person by that name. There wasn't, so he called the station to make producers aware of it.

"At least with a letter to the editor [in the newspaper], they call back to check if you really wrote it," Choder said. "Where's the vetting?"

A producer reacted with surprise, Choder said, and the e-mail did not appear on the 11 p.m. news.

Later Choder tried to reach the station's general manager, but a woman answering the phone was of no help, and his call was never returned. He expressed similar frustration with the response he's gotten in the past when he's called WPXI to point out on-air blunders on Channel 11.

"Don't claim to be the most trusted news source if, when you make a mistake, you don't have the decency to say, 'Thank you for alerting us.' "

KDKA news director Al Blinke was on vacation last week. After looking into the incident, he said a memo about future e-mail protocol would go out to the KDKA staff.

"When this person wrote in, they supplied no return address. In the future, if no return address is supplied, we will not be running their comments," Blinke said. "We need to be able to verify these people are real."

He said staff members would also be encouraged to pay attention to names that could have a double meaning.

"We will be more diligent in making sure these are not pranks that come in," he said. "Quite frankly, somebody here should have caught the name. We will do our due diligence in the future."

'Big Brother' pre-empted

CBS's "Big Brother 4" will be pre-empted Saturday for KDKA's coverage of a pre-season Steelers game. The episode will air after midnight Saturday at 12:05 a.m.

HDTV on Comcast

Comcast will begin offering four channels in high-definition digital to customers with HD-ready sets tomorrow.

Showtime will air in high definition on Channel 574, ESPN on Channel 773, WTAE on Channel 780 and WQED on Channel 790.

Most digital sets don't have built-in tuners yet, but Comcast will swap out digital boxes for HDTV digital boxes for current digital customers at no additional cost.

In addition, KDKA will use Comcast's HDTV production truck to make Saturday's Steelers game available in HD both over the air on Channel 25 and on Comcast cable Channel 775.

Starr's 'Homefront' tapes

Jerry Starr's "Homefront" public affairs show, taped at The Andy Warhol Museum, has gained an outlet on low-power station WBGN. The "Media Monopoly" edition will air at 6 p.m. Aug. 23.

The next installment, "Nuclear Weapons -- Proliferation or Abolition?," will be taped at The Warhol at 7 p.m. Aug. 26.

Rob Owen can be reached at or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to TV Forum.

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