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Standing Room Only 

Channel 3 springs new format

WBTV's revamped evening newscasts popped up last Monday with no fanfare, showing some improvements, but some problems as well.

THE GOOD NEWS The addition of native Charlottean Maureen O'Boyle is a plus. She looks professional, sounds authoritative, Milk Dud-brown eyes and all. She's been on the national scene long enough to know how to play it in a conservative news market where female anchors (with the exception of WCNC's Sonja Gantt) are set up as subtle secondary players. That's clearly not to be her lot on 3, though. There have already been a couple of potshots at her former tabloid TV days, but my dears, she's here to read news and fill pews.

STANDING AND TALKING Not so swell is the early evening set where O'Boyle, Paul Cameron, and Tonya Bendickson are crowded together. Guess they get to exhale when standing by nifty vertical flat screen monitors. The downtown scenery outside is a plus, but the tiny desk is not.

THE BAD NEWS The new deal may not be good for Tonya Bendickson, who looks like the odd woman out on the three-anchor set-up, like a kid sister trying to make the kickball team.

While the anchors are the new emphasis in the WBTV format, reporters are increasingly de-emphasized. Sports is given about two minutes at 6pm -- in an NFL and NBA town.

Bottom line, WBTV News is still a work in progress.

THE PEOPLE'S CANDIDATE? Charlotte has a reality show winner, if that's something to be proud of. Stanley schoolteacher Park Gillespie won Showtime's American Candidate, a faux presidential race to weed out "candidates." Gillespie, a rather rightwing fellow, wins $200,000 and a televised address to the nation.

STERN STUFF Howard Stern's multimillion-dollar leap to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006 is a jumpstart for an industry that is struggling for name recognition and to stay ahead of red ink. One reader says the move can't come too soon: "I play spin the dial all morning between the teenyboppers on 95.1, that chauvinist moron Roper, hillbillies John and Billy, and the uber-feminine Bob Lacey. You know the best morning show in Charlotte? "Two Guys Named Chris' Rock 92.3 in Greensboro! No more every-seven-minute-'Amazing Siding' breaks on WBT. Howard Stern, deliver me from this lameness!"

Stay tuned.

Shannon Reichley is an independent producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.

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