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Media: It's An East Coast World 

A couple of years ago, Bryant Gumbel was in Charlotte promoting his new gig on the CBS Morning Show. It was the standard stuff, but I remember actually stumping him for a minute, when I asked how New York-based media actually kept in touch with rest of the country. "That's a good question," Gumbel said. "It's something we have to pay more attention to."

Since the events of September 11, a media establishment already well-rooted in New York feels even more so. Just imagine if you live on the West Coast. We all know that TV news revolves around the ever-evil clock, and live news events that give it its immediacy. Granted, the events of September 11 focused news coverage on the nation's capital, New York City, and Afghanistan, but even before that, news viewers on the Left Coast watched less news than us Easterners.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times last month, the ratings also must surely be a factor for the honchos who run the news divisions. For cable news last September, it broke down like this: 51 percent of CNN's viewers were from the Eastern time zone and only 21 percent were in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Ditto for Fox News and even MSNBC.

If you really want to look behind those numbers, population distribution is also a driving factor. Nielsen's analysis shows that from the population of 270 million people with TVs, 48 percent live in the Eastern time zone, 29 percent live in the Central time zone, and the Pacific and Mountain time zones combined comprise 23 percent. Therefore, network and radio headquarters are by and large in New York or Washington, DC, and it won't be changing anytime soon.

But beyond September 11, people with less-than-New York accents and experiences are beginning to seem a little exotic. There's nothing I hate worse than the cliched story from some small American city, with a reporter saying, "This is a place where things like this don't usually happen." How would they know?

Coverage outside of the major cities is often the wacky or heinous, and yes, I mean crime stories. I wonder if the majority of Middle America will cease to see, or even recognize itself, as times goes on. Ground Zero, indeed.

*****

It's the time of year when we log too much time in front of the tube because of sports. NFL playoffs are over and the Super Bowl looms, with McCartney at halftime, as well.

But college hoops, especially the ACC, tie me down even more often. I think I've been watching ACC games on TV for over (mumble) 30 years now, so I know what I'm looking at, and being a TV chick, I also know what works and what I don't like. And what I don't like (yet) is Fox Sports' rendition of ACC basketball on Sunday nights.

But sadly, Fox doesn't seem to get it when it comes to our hallowed ACC hoops. We don't want stodgy, but for heaven sakes, just show us the game. Fox is bringing ACC hoops to a national audience on Sunday nights this season, and is trying to shake up the landscape a bit.

So far, some of it doesn't work, like the handheld courtside shots that still don't work for game action as well as the old "high" camera. Wide shots are not illegal apparently, just out of vogue these days. Replays often cut into game action, as those thrilling face-of-the-coach shots are also seen way too much. (Though it is fun to count how many times we'll see Coach K mouth the "F" word this season. Could be a new drinking game. You heard it here first.)

And boy, is the announcer "booth" crowded. Thom Brennaman, whose main gig is as the radio voice of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, proves to be a solid point man, but Kenny Smith needs to go back to a studio show, where personality can overcome a lack of preparation.

But the beauty of basketball on television is the lack of on-air downtime that plagues baseball and football. Those sports have built-in time for sideline reports and interviews and announcer chat. Hoops have a speed and grace that demand a director be on his toes so the viewer can follow the flow, from a fast-break to a dunk.

*****

As the February ratings book begins for stations around the country, two "races" bear watching here in the Charlotte market. And no thanks to WSOC's continuing news wins everywhere but noon, these races are for, well, number two. The places to watch are demographic contests between WCNC and WBTV in early morning news and at 11pm. Channel 3 is in second place for both newscasts, but NBC6 is close by in terms of that cherished little demo group, people aged 25-54. WBTV is even touting itself in promos lately as the "fastest -growing morning show." We also wonder if lessons learned from last November (i.e. tired sweeps series can be done better, or done without) will stick.

*****

DEPARTURES AND MORE FROM THE QC...Partly cloudy forecast for the weatherperson search at Fox18, as a TV talent agent actually put in some time on the air to bridge the job opening and give current weatherguy Matt Scott a rest. Raleigh-based agent Steve Swienckowski was helping WCCB look for weather personnel, and agreed to pitch in on-air temporarily. Weird, plus some of Swienckowski's clients apparently weren't too pleased.

Documentary filmmaker Steve Crump's latest, The Carolina BeBop Kings, looks at the connections between three jazz legends born in the Carolinas: John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Crump, you'll remember, has won accolades and awards for his previous work on black radio stations and personalities and black jockeys. The film premiere of The Carolina Bebop Kings will take place Monday, February 11 at 7pm in the Levine Museum of the New South, in conjunction with WTVI. The evening kicks off with a reception at the museum at 6pm. The film will have its broadcast premiere on WTVI on February 21 at 8pm. The premiere at the museum, by the way, is free. Call Kellie McGregor at 704-333-1887, ext. 243 for reservations.

The Regional EMMY awards, in which Charlotte-area stations compete in TV news and programming, will be seen on public access TV this year for the first time. The airdate on Channel 18 on Time Warner Cable is Friday, February 8, at 2pm. It will be re-run February 11 at 10am. Charlotte stations compete in the Nashville, TN chapter, where the award show is held.

Buying some award polish is WPEG-WBAV-WGIV radio GM Diane Tucker, who has picked up two big awards recently. Tucker has received the Maya Angelou Tribute to Achievement from the United Negro College Fund. And on the industry front, she was named one of the top 50 general managers in the country by Radio Ink, a trade magazine.

The WBTV to Time Warner Cable shuttle bus just keeps on rollin'. Three more WBTV staffers have flown the coop to the start-up News14 Carolina operation down the hill on Morehead Street. Producers Lori Wrenn and Kay Lewis, and director Tom Zumwalt have been hired there, along with former WSOC director Marcie Landrum.

Even more changes at Channel 3, as little news birds report that the Gaston County and Rock Hill bureaus will be no more, along with the ouster of sports' Charlie Frederick. All to save cash, apparently, even as 3's sports staff shrinks.

And this week's "Cut me a break" awardgoes to Monica Lewinsky, who despite claiming she wants a private life now, doesn't mind taking $150,000 from HBO for her participation in a "documentary" about her.

Stay tuned...

Feedback, tips, or cost-saving recipe ideas? E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com. *

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