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Inner War of Words 

Anchor's private battle goes public

Two hundred fifty e-mails and phone calls later, Colleen Odegaard guesses she did the right thing."They're saying "thanks for the education' and for being, I'm embarrassed to say this: "brave,'" the WCNC-TV morning anchor says.

Cutting through the clutter of February sweeps pieces was Odegaard's series about the fact that she has Tourette's Syndrome (TS), which was a secret from nearly everyone, including the majority of her co-workers. Tourette's is a neurological disorder that causes people to make sounds, words, and body movements that are beyond their control -- not exactly the ideal ailment for someone who makes a living talking on live television. The stereotype of Tourette's is an image of people spitting out curse words uncontrollably. That manifestation of TS is actually very rare, but dispelling that myth wasn't the main reason she decided to go public. It's because of her 8-month-old son, Anthony.

"Truthfully, since Tourette's can be an inherited disorder, if he does have it one day, I don't want him to be ashamed. I thought that since I'd been walking around with this secret, it was time I was more matter-of-fact about it, and I was in a unique position to do this (the report)," she explains.

Odegaard is affected by motor tics, such as a flailing arm or head jerk. She says she has no problems on-air, because focusing on a task allows the tics to be controlled. "I have my little tricks," she says. "I've heard people make fun of Tourette's, and I still struggle with the fact that people might look at me differently now, but everyone's been incredibly kind."

Hopefully, viewers have learned something as well.

We don't even know what the new arena will look like, but new Charlotte NBA franchise owner Bob Johnson is already pondering what the media landscape might be like when the team cranks up in 2004.Since he'll control the arena and the team, he'd like to grab a bigger piece of the pie by creating a regional sports network for the Charlotte area, as he told CableWorld magazine recently. According to Billionaire Bob, instead of selling team TV rights, he'd rather find a way to package the games himself. George What-His-Name attempted this in the past by hoping to put hockey and hoops on a channel, but it never happened. What about this time around?

"Could be," says Jimmy Rayburn, executive producer of Jefferson Pilot Sports. "The difference between Shinn and Johnson is that cable TV is Johnson's background and he knows how it works from the inside. Because of his background, (creating a network) is credible," Rayburn says. "But I do think creating a cable entity will be hard to do and make money. It can be a Catch-22: you have to have clearance on a channel to sell ads, and you can't sell ads without clearance."

Johnson is reportedly talking with national programming honchos from Time-Warner Cable, which would be a logical choice for a dedicated sports channel in both Charlotte and Raleigh, the state's largest TV markets.

I was working in a Cleveland, Ohio, newsroom when the Challenger space shuttle exploded, and I remember the disbelief, then the familiar routine of the troops scrambling to cover the jaw- dropping disaster it was. Times have changed 17 years later, as Columbia broke apart minutes from coming safely home. CNN appointed itself best on cable, and once again, the experience of a Dan Rather (despite his bouts of melodrama) provided what many were looking for as we paused for a time on February 1.

What hasn't changed is our shock. What has come to an end is the American romance with the space program of the Cold War and "the right stuff." As space travel became routine, it was no longer part of news departments' coverage plans. So no wonder they had to scramble to rewind NASA's taped soundbites with the astronauts who died. They hadn't covered the story for a long time. What's changed is space travel is only brought into focus anymore when disaster strikes. And isn't that most people's main complaint about the media anyway?

Stay tuned. . .

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