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TV Notes: Moyers to leave 'Now' to work on LBJ book

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Bill Moyers, whose weekly magazine "Now" on PBS has capped a 30-year career in TV journalism, is leaving the broadcast after the November elections.

His next venture: writing a long-proposed book about Lyndon Johnson, whom he served before and during Johnson's presidency.

"It isn't because I feel old," Moyers, 69, told The Associated Press of his decision, which he made official Thursday. "It's because I feel compelled to do something else now, that only I can do -- which is that book."

The veteran journalist said he had pondered the new course for some time and originally considered stepping down in June, when he turns 70. Instead, he will scale back his duties after that but stay on through the presidential race.

Moyers has been host of the program as well as an executive editor and frequent reporter since its premiere in January 2002.

Like most PBS programming, "Now" is funded on an annual basis, but network president Pat Mitchell voiced hope the series will carry on in Moyers' absence.

"I have a deep commitment to the program," she said.

Airing Friday nights on most PBS stations, "Now" is a diverse mix of reports and in-studio interviews whose aim, in Moyers' words, "is to tell stories nobody else is telling and put on people who have no forum elsewhere."

Among those stories other news shows have routinely dismissed: the threat of media consolidation, which "Now" has covered steadily.

The weekly audience for "Now with Bill Moyers" averages 2.6 million viewers.

When Moyers steps down, it will end more than 30 years' almost continuous presence on TV in news and public affairs, beginning on PBS in the early 1970s with "Bill Moyers' Journal." Then, during a decade at CBS News, he was a commentator and chief correspondent for "CBS Reports."

(Frazier Moore, Associated Press)

O'Brien apologizes, sort of

Talk show host Conan O'Brien apologized Wednesday for offending any French Canadians during his NBC show's visit to Toronto last week, but not before trying to wring some laughs out of the flap.

"People of Quebec, I'm sorry," O'Brien said on NBC's "Late Night" telecast early Wednesday.

He had his remarks "translated" into French and subtitled: "People of Quebec, I'm an albino jackass."

"We meant no harm with our comedy piece the other night," O'Brien said.

The translation: "The other night, I wet the bed like a little girl."

And so on.

O'Brien's cantankerous sock puppet, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, drew the ire of French Canadian separatists with some of his jokes last week. O'Brien did a week of shows from Toronto to try to pump up the SARS-disrupted economy.

"You're in North America; learn the language," the puppet hollered at one couple encountered at a visit to Quebec City's Winter Carnival.

"It's too late, but it's better than not giving his apology," said Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario's minister of culture and Francophone affairs on Wednesday. "The comments should never have been made."


New 'Tonight Show' announcer

Jay Leno's new announcer on NBC's "The Tonight Show" will be "Stuttering" John Melendez from Howard Stern's radio show, a spokeswoman said.

Melendez will start March 29, replacing Edd Hall, who's leaving the show after 12 years to concentrate on doing movies.

Melendez is working with a speech coach to help with his announcing, a "Tonight Show" spokeswoman told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Besides announcing, Melendez will be in sketches and will go out on interviews. Melendez is famous for embarrassing the people he talks to, but he won't be doing that sort of interview for Leno, the spokeswoman said.

"Tonight Show" executives became interested in Melendez after seeing him on the ABC reality show "I'm a Celebrity: Get Me out of Here." The spokeswoman said Melendez came across as a "peacemaker" and "family man."

(Michael P. Weinfeld, AP)

Interns battle on 'Today'

The "Today" show introduced eight NBC interns Friday who will compete in a weeklong series called "The Intern."

Developed to model the network's successful prime-time show "The Apprentice," the interns will be broken into two teams, with a participant being "fired" each day until there are four remaining winners, NBC said Tuesday.

The four winning interns will go on special assignment with the "Today" show team -- co-hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, news anchor Ann Curry, and weather and feature reporter Al Roker -- and the other four will return to their prior intern assignments within NBC.

Couric and Lauer will be "dismissing" an intern each day, with the guidance of Roker and Curry, who will act as advisers.


Drolen leaving WTAE

Channel 4 reporter Whitney Drolen will leave the station March 5. She'll return to her native state of California, but so far she has no job lined up there.

Drolen joined WTAE in March 2002 as weekend morning anchor/reporter. She was replaced by Susan Koeppen as weekend morning anchor in April 2003. Drolen came to Pittsburgh from WVVA in Bluefield, W. Va.

Drolen said she wanted to live closer to her family, and she may want to try a different job in television -- something besides local news, something that doesn't require covering as many crime stories.

"Some reporters can go on the scene of a triple homicide, do their job, get out of there and go home and collect their paycheck," Drolen said. "Unfortunately, I've learned I'm not one of those people. I'm a little bit more sensitive. I think about these people; I have nightmares about these things. It really affects me more than it probably should."

She said she would have come to the same conclusion even if she were still anchoring as opposed to reporting. Drolen, who turns 27 in April, said her colleagues have been supportive.

"The one thing that comes up a lot in conversation is, 'Do it now before you have a family. You're still young.' ... This is a time in my life I can still make a drastic change and it'll be OK in the end."

Drolen said she's dating a Pittsburgher and is confident she may soon have family in Pittsburgh, which will bring her back to town several times a year.

Channel 4 news director Bob Longo said the search for a general assignment reporter to take Drolen's place has begun.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor)

Civil War on WBGN

"Civil War Minutes," a series of historical documentaries previously available for home video purchase since 2001, will air in two parts on low-power station WBGN Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 to 10 p.m.

"Minutes" was produced by Inecom Entertainment, a Blawnox company that makes documentaries.


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