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Redmond will leave Channel 11 news

Thursday, November 20, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WPXI 11 p.m. anchor Gina Redmond will leave the station after Wednesday's late news to spend more time with her children.

Redmond, who joined Channel 11 in May 2001, said her decision was strictly related to her family.

"I was struggling with being a single parent to two beautiful children I don't see," she said yesterday. Redmond's children are 4 and 6. She's separated from her husband, Ivan Thorpe. "I know I just need to spend time with them. My kids have not eaten dinner with a parent in three years. They're my most important job, and I just need to focus on that. I don't want to wake up one day and [realize] I've missed their growing up."

If she ever were to get back into TV, which she does not plan to do, Redmond said the job would have to be more compatible with her children's schedules.

Redmond said the station let her out of her contract and executives at WPXI have known about her desire for more family time. She and news director Pat Maday said her departure had nothing to do with an incident last year.

In October 2002, Redmond was sentenced to community service after pleading no contest to slapping a former WPXI producer, Roberta Petterson, girlfriend of former PCNC "NightTalk" host John McIntire.

"That has nothing to do with her departure," Maday said.

"I figured some people would ask this, but really it is about my family and children," Redmond said. "If this was about last year, it would have happened last year."

Regardless, Redmond's departure is probably a boon to the station's image and a relief to executives. Last year's incident and Channel 11's handling of the situation did not sit well with some viewers.

Redmond joined WPXI in May 2001 after working at WFAA in Dallas as anchor/reporter and morning show host. Before that, she had been a reporter/weekend anchor at Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV for 3 1/2 years, departing for Dallas in 1995. She graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in State College and first worked in TV at WTAJ-TV in Johnstown.

Until Redmond's replacement is named, anchors Newlin Archinal and Stacia Erdos and reporter Jodine Costanzo will fill in.

Sweeps or 'sleeps'?

November sweeps has followed the pattern of the rest of the fall season: It's been a big snore, especially in prime time.

No epic miniseries, no great TV movies and only one truly noteworthy special (CBS's "Andy Griffith Show" reunion) make this month particularly uninspiring for network television.

Sweeps periods are usually when networks roll out the big guns, highly promotable programs that networks use to woo viewers in hopes of landing large audiences. It's the goal of sweeps to draw as many eyeballs as possible, because Nielsen measures the viewership so local stations can set future advertising rates.

Some network chiefs have longed talked about dismantling the sweeps periods, saying they don't reflect the strengths (or weaknesses) of their regular schedules. Intentionally or not, this November may have been a step in that direction.

Of course, it wasn't intended to be that way. CBS had high hopes for its miniseries "The Reagans," but those disintegrated amid the politically charged controversy that erupted around the miniseries, which was ultimately shunted off to sister cable network Showtime.

Because of slow starts for so many new series, other networks juggled their schedules with wild abandon, particularly Fox and NBC. Wondering why the TV listings aren't accurate on any given night of the week? Most often it's due to last-minute program changes by reactionary network programmers.

In local television, a sedate sweeps is actually a good thing. It means there weren't too many ridiculously sensational, arm-waving, "look-at-me!" stories. Perhaps that was intentional or maybe it was happenstance. After all, there's no need to scare viewers into watching when the news of the day is about the region's hepatitis outbreak.

It proved to be a boon for Channel 11 especially, which already routinely covers health department citations of area restaurants during sweeps.

Earlier this week, WTAE sent reporter Jake Ploeger to Atlanta, home of the Centers for Disease Control. It was an attempt to advance the hepatitis story, but Tuesday evening it didn't seem to be worth the effort. Only a phone interview with a CDC spokesman was part of his first report (a Georgia State Health Department employee was interviewed on tape later).

In recent sweeps months, identity theft has been a big theme on local stations. This time around, it was prescription drug prices. WTAE's Susan Koeppen reported on price variances among different stores, and WPXI's Becky Thompson looked at different prices at different stores within the same drugstore chain.

Among the best investigative pieces, WTAE's Jim Parsons revealed a charity scam, KDKA's Paul Martino looked at PennDOT boondoggles, WPXI's Karen Welles discovered a name that sets off concern at airport security checkpoints, and KDKA's John Shumway explained delays in the Mon Wharf's reopening.

Lamest stories: WPXI's Becky Thompson report on how to beat voice mail and get to a real person (the report didn't tell us much beyond pressing "0," which most people probably already know) and KDKA's Marty Griffin report on Internet sex stalkers (doesn't everyone know some chat rooms are an "online minefield" of perverts already?).

Just for fun, Channel 4's Susan Koeppen did "Test-It Tuesday" reports from New York. They were rather amusing as she tried to get the stars of "Live with Regis and Kelly," "Inside Edition" and "Good Morning America" to play along and help her test assorted gadgets and utensils. Not surprisingly, she didn't have much luck -- those folks are far too big for local TV, don't ya know -- but Koeppen spun that straw into gold. It wasn't news, but it was entertaining and at least a tiny bit informative.

No 'Reagans' reviews

Showtime is not sending critics tapes of "The Reagans" miniseries -- now a one-night movie without commercials -- for review in advance of its Nov. 30 premiere. When a network refuses to pony up, it's often a sign the program in question stinks.

Showtime claims review tapes aren't available due to last-minute editing, which is plausible, but after all the hubbub and Showtime's posturing about its willingness to take on controversial projects, it seems odd that they're not putting their cards on the table.

'Farscape's' future?

The Jim Henson Company had planned a press conference last week to announce a future project involving "Farscape," the acclaimed Henson-produced series canceled last year by Sci Fi Channel.

The press conference was canceled at the last minute, but online rumors and a report in next week's TV Guide suggest a four-hour miniseries that will wrap up the saga is in the works.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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