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NEW LOOK FOR CLEAR CHANNEL TV

WPTY and WLMT hope changes will boost ratings.

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After almost seven years of holding down last place in local television news ratings, WPTY-TV Channel 24 is finally taking a stand with a total newscast makeover. Some changes have already been aired, but on Super Bowl Sunday, Eyewitness News planned to unveil its new set and new graphics, intros, and music. Sister station WLMT-TV Channel 30 was also scheduled to see some changes. "We've changed everything from something as subtle as the carpet in the newsroom to something as major as the anchor team," said Jim Turpin, news director for both stations. "We've changed the way we look at stories, and we're doing a lot more live coverage." A change in anchor personnel has already taken place over the last month. Cameron Harper and Dee Griffin replaced the old news team of Bill Lunn, Renee Malone, Michelle Robinson, and Ken Houston. Harper, who honed his skills in Phoenix, Dallas, and San Francisco, started at the end of December. Griffin, who previously anchored in Kansas City, joined the station the first week of January. They will be delivering the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts on WPTY and the 9 p.m. newscast on WLMT. Clear Channel Television exempted the former anchors from the clause in their contracts that prohibits working on-air in a competitive market for six months following their employment at Clear Channel. Turpin says the anchors began leaving in November, staggering their exits through December. Lunn is now co-anchoring the noon weekday newscast at WMC-TV Channel 5. "In general, anchors get credit when things go well and too much criticism when things go badly. If an incorrect graphic comes up, the viewer's going to blame the anchor and that's not fair," said Turpin. "Unfortunately, our anchors were definitely being blamed by the viewers for the bad performance of the news department. I really wasn't sure there was any way to convince Memphis that anything had changed, so we decided to start clean." Besides a new look, Turpin said the station will also have a renewed dedication to accuracy. He said every story will be run through an ethical filter and claimed they will never do a story in the name of ratings. "We would rather be second to do a story and have it right than be first and get it wrong," said Turpin. "A lot of times when breaking news reports go out in the city, they're wrong at first, and I think that's a sin. I think it has to stop and we're going to be part of the solution." Turpin said Clear Channel spent about $750,000 on the changes to both stations.
  • A Reader Responds: "We would rather be second to do a story and have it right than be first and get it wrong," said Turpin. "A lot of times when breaking news reports go out in the city, they're wrong at first, and I think that's a sin. I think it has to stop and we're going to be part of the solution." When breaking news reports first come out, if they're wrong, it's not necessarily because of shoddy reporting or failure to seek out correct information. It is because authorities do not often have a complete picture at the beginning of an incident. Is it better to give information from police sources immediately or wait until the story is sorted out and the breaking news event is wrapped up? The public knows that in a breaking news situation, details and complete information are sketchy. But they simultaneously expect that news agencies will give them whatever information they have at that time and will provide a more comprehensive look at an incident as the investigation continues. "We would rather be second to do a story and have it right than be first and get it wrong," said Turpin. "A lot of times when breaking news reports go out in the city, they're wrong at first, and I think that's a sin. I think it has to stop and we're going to be part of the solution." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When breaking news reports first come out, if they're wrong, it's not necessarily because of shoddy reporting or failure to seek out correct information. It is because authorities do not often have a complete picture at the beginning of an incident. Is it better to give information from police sources immediately or wait until the story is sorted out and the breaking news event is wrapped up? The public knows that in a breaking news situation, details and complete information are sketchy. But they simultaneously expects that news agencies will give them whatever information they have at that time and will provide a more comprehensive look at an incident as the investigation continues. I guess claiming to want to wait for the whole story before telling any part of it gives WPTY a hall pass to be late to breaking news. Elizabeth Berman (formerly of WMC) Assignment Editor KING 5 TV 333 Dexter Ave N Seattle, WA 98109 Elizabeth Berman (formerly of WMC) Assignment Editor KING 5 TV Seattle, Washington
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