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Tuned In: WPXI seeks new faces for anchor desk

Thursday, December 18, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As the calendar year comes to a close, Pittsburgh TV stations are pretty much fully stocked with news anchors.

KDKA has had some movement this year with the departures of Gabrielle DeRose and Susan Barnett, but replacements were quickly named in both cases. WTAE's roster is full for the time being.

That leaves WPXI, which has two outstanding positions: Those of former weekend anchor Keith Jones and 11 p.m. weekday anchor Gina Redmond.

Earlier this week, news director Pat Maday said Jones' replacement will be named sooner than Redmond's, with another weekend anchor candidate scheduled to visit the station today. Maday said the weekend co-anchor spot will be filled "ideally in January" before the start of February sweeps.

The issue of a new 11 p.m. anchor most likely won't be settled until later in 2004. Early evening news anchor Peggy Finnegan has already been tapped to fill in at 11 p.m. during February sweeps (Newlin Archinal has been filling in this month and Jodine Costanzo is on tap for January). Maday said naming an 11 p.m. co-anchor by May sweeps is realistic.

He said he's looking for an anchor -- internally and externally -- who's not only good on the air, but also "a good fit here in the newsroom."

"Another aspect is, as much as we're interviewing candidates, candidates are interviewing us," Maday said.

It isn't too surprising that there will be several months between Redmond's departure and an announcement of her successor. Nine months elapsed between the departure of her predecessor, Darieth Chisolm, and the hiring of Redmond.

So far, the station hasn't talked with Chisolm, who still lives in Western Pennsylvania, about resuming a role at the station. She left Channel 11 in 2000 to spend more time with her son and work on her own business.

"I've always maintained a great relationship with those guys, but we have not talked [about the current opening]," Chisolm said. "In the past, the door has always been open, but neither party has slipped through."

That could be due to logistics. Chisolm would want to return to the air only on a part-time basis. WPXI general manager Ray Carter said the 11 p.m. anchor position will be a full-time job.

In addition to offering Web site service to small businesses through her Walnut Grove Sales & Associates company, Chisolm continues to report stories for WQED's "On Q."

After Chisolm and Redmond, it would be easy to assume the next 11 p.m. co-anchor may again be an African-American woman.

Maday said it's important for the station's employees to reflect the community both on-camera and behind the scenes, but "when all is said and done, it still comes down to who is the best available candidate for that position."

Snow day snafu

Yesterday morning Channel 11 ran Monday's school delays and closings, which caused some area students to be late for class.

In the Seneca Valley School District, about 70 members of the 11th and 12th grades were tardy, according to Seneca Valley public relations coordinator Linda Andreassi (their tardiness will be excused, she said). The district had a two-hour delay Monday but was on its regular schedule yesterday.

Penn Hills High School and some other area schools also saw a rise in tardiness yesterday due to Channel 11's error.

The mistaken closings scrolled through the automated computer system only once before 6:30 a.m., Andreassi said, but that was enough for some parents to send their kids back to bed.

"In some cases, Mom and Dad had gone to work, and the kids woke up and realized they were supposed to be in school but missed the bus, so we did have some absences for that reason," Andreassi said. "It's hard to explain how difficult something like that makes it for schools. When you have 7,600 students and even a fraction saw it, it causes a lot of problems, because they'll call friends and bad information gets passed along."

A Channel 11 producer apologized for the gaffe, Andreassi said, which was quickly corrected.

News director Pat Maday did not return a call for comment yesterday before press time.

PCNC to move again

After Comcast unveiled a new lineup on its cable systems earlier this month, Channel 11 started saying the move of PCNC from Channel 31 to Channel 72 was only temporary. Higher channel numbers are considered less desirable in the cable universe, and Comcast spokesman Brian Jeter said PCNC will move yet again.

"We anticipate relocating PCNC to a different channel position, lower on the channel lineup, sometime during the first quarter 2004," Jeter said.

Customers will be notified of the move 30 days in advance.

'Healthy' special on WTAE

Channel 4 anchor Michelle Wright hosts "Healthy 4 Life: Cooking for the Holidays" at 8 p.m. tomorrow. Pittsburgh personalities, including Channel 4 reporters, will introduce holiday recipes.

Anchor Scott Baker and his wife, former Miss America Nicole Johnson, will prepare diabetic desserts, and Pittsburgh Steeler Josh Miller will make meatloaf.

ALF to return?

Everyone's favorite smart-aleck puppet -- OK, my favorite smart-aleck puppet -- may be worming his way back onto the tube.

The fortunes of ALF, who starred in an '80s sitcom on NBC and was most recently seen pitching long-distance service in TV commercials, may be on the rise. Nick at Nite and TV Land announced their development slates this week and "ALF's Hit Talk Show" is on the drawing boards at Nick from Paul Fusco, creator of "ALF."

No time table has been announced for when this new talk show might air.

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

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