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Larson's In, Laura's Out 

Welcome change at WBT

There's a new local sound back at last on WBT-AM's 9am-12noon weekday slot, and Keith Larson is the guy who's supposed to make things happen in Life After Dr. Laura.We chatted about a number of things, including how he hopes the "Keith Larson Show" will fit into Charlotte's radio landscape, and how he found his way back into radio after an absence of 12 years.

Larson comes to Charlotte from WVNN in Huntsville, Alabama, and sharp listeners know he did fill-in work on WBT in recent months. Larson had been in radio news and talk for 12 years when he took a different path, namely advertising, and did ad work for McDonald's out of Atlanta for the next 12 years. But he always wanted to get back behind the mike.

"I talk a lot on the air about this "return from the living dead,' and I'm not kidding. I was happy in advertising, but always wanted to get back to radio," Larson says. So he did, heading to Alabama two years ago, and now making the big market jump to Charlotte.

The obvious question, of course, is whether he'll line up with other parts of WBT's conservative on-air profile. Is Larson a conservative?

"I would hope that people would be thoroughly confused," he says. "Labels are for soup cans. The core of conservatism is prudence, which I believe in. But I do not pick positions based on someone else's label or jersey. People are much more alike when it comes to core issues."

Instead, Larson stresses that his daily show topics will spring from wherever his head leads him, as a "45 year-old married guy with three kids. I have lived a life outside radio, I have kids in the public schools, and pay taxes with my hard-earned money."

What does he think about the current radio talk show climate, where bombast sells, and rabble-rousing can be second nature?

"I hope I send a positive message. I'm not into throwing out polarizing statements just to make the phone ring."

And what was he listening to on the radio as he traveled to his new home? Not much. He had the Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty, John Hartford, and The Who in the CD holder. Not bad.

More national TV shoots have been happening in the Queen City and just beyond. They'll be coming to a TV near you in coming months.Up in Davidson County, the colorful Sheriff Hege and company will be the focus of a Fox "Cops" episode shot recently. No airdates for that yet.

A pilot for the Food Network called "Food Fight" was shot at Dilworth's Bonterra restaurant June 22 and 23. The premise for this one is that two teams of regular folks are given two hours, 20 bucks, and a main ingredient. From there, each team has to come up with a feast. Charlotte's teams did well, and were judged by local high school culinary arts teachers. Plaza-Midwood's VanLandingham Estate was the setting for a recent DIY Network shoot for five shows called "Handmade Gifts" to air in the fall. They were hosted by Charlotte-based Vicki Payne and her daughter Sloan Payne-Rutter. Payne produces and hosts several craft and home improvement series seen on PBS stations nationally. "Food Fight" and "Handmade Gifts" are being produced by Tentmaker Entertainment.

I've been hearing plenty of feedback from you, the home (and Internet) reader, about News 14 Carolina, the new cable outfit for Time-Warner Cable subscribers.

Overall, your reviews have been fairly positive, from viewers to newsroom competitors across town. Here's a quick sample:"Love all that weather, so I don't have to wait around. But where are the radar maps?"

"The on-air readers look small-time, but I like the convenience of getting it (news) when I want it."

"The Other News Brothers in town have nothing to worry about, but they do have a slick look."

"A breath of fresh air."

Upon watching a bit more, my growing gripe about News 14 Carolina is the relatively low story count, bogged down by more graphics than meat in their news sandwich.

The show that celebrates the best of North Carolina authors is back with a new season on UNC-TV starting July 7. "North Carolina Bookwatch" will feature an Oprah book club author, a former White House adviser, an historian, a first-time author and a New York Times best seller among others in the 12-week run. D.G. Martin is the host, and the series will begin with a chat with Michael Malone, author of Red Clay, Blue Cadillac: Stories of Twelve Southern Women. In weeks to come, you'll also meet Chapel Hill's Elizabeth Spencer (July 14), Meredith College professor Thomas Parramore (July 21), and Raleigh psychologist Lucy Daniels (July 28). "North Carolina Bookwatch" runs Sundays at 5pm.

Since you asked, NBC6 Sheree Paoello has left the station. She's gone home to Cincinnati and station WLWT.

Local TV and music communities are remembering Ken Linker, who died of cancer June 16. Linker's musical variety shows were on various Charlotte TV stations for over 30 years, most recently on Time Warner's cable access channel. There are still a few unaired shows that will be shown as a tribute in coming weeks on Access 21.Stay tuned and have a happy Fourth.

Shannon Reichley is the executive producer of "Talk2DIY" on the DIY cable network and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail her with story tips and feedback at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.

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