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Why D'you Wanna Know? 

Unleashing the inner Simon

Good for Simon Cowell. In the summer TV hit American Idol, he re-introduced America's self-esteem mongers to actual opinion undiluted by rationalization. If a singer stank, he told them so. If they should have been voted off the show, he said it.In the spirit of Simon, I'm getting a little plainspoken this outing and answering some questions thrown my way lately by you, the valued home reader. If I sound cranky, maybe it's the post-September 11 propensities many of us have to quit wasting time and get on with it.

Were you surprised that The Leader newspaper bit the dust? Get the full story on that just below, but not really. Every few weeks or so, someone was saying the paper was going under. Management tried to make money, but it just wasn't happening. I was jealous, though, that I didn't get my own cover story of my media empire, like Mike Collins did last month.

Anna Nicole or the Osbournes? The Osbournes, hands down. I am more fascinated by matriarch Sharon than Ozzy or their publicity-hound teenagers. I would watch just Sharon for a half-hour, savaging promoters and anything that gets in the way of her hubby's career. As for the mutant Barbie that is Ms. Smith, it's the OxyContin, stupid. At least, that's my bet.

Creative Loafing has been doing promo spots on that new show on WCCB-TV. I saw you on there the other night, too. Does that mean you can't tell us what you really think about this show? Oh, my dear, think again. Fox Edge is a grand experiment among the stodgy formats of Charlotte TV news. So far, though, only some of the story ideas, entertainment news, and the graphics and music are working. What isn't working is the choice of motormouth weatherman Mark Mathis as a co-anchor. He can be funny on weather, but not beyond that. What'll really give this show an "edge" is when co-anchor Ashley Anderson whacks him on the melon with her script clipboard the next time he interrupts her. Come on, Ashley, you know you want to.

Did you see Eminem vs. Moby at the MTV Video Awards? You bet I did, but the egos at MTV surpass this "feud" between Rap Dude and Techno Dude. (channeling Simon) Little Marshall Mathers has become the "Victor Victoria" of the music world these days. He's a white guy pretending to be a black guy pretending to be a white guy. Moby has class, kids. What was more interesting to me was actual visual proof of Michael Jackson's growing cluelessness about his place among us here in the real world. And pardon me, but shouldn't that closing act have been called "The Axl Rose Cover Band"? Guns n' Roses, my foot. And what was with Axl's apparent hair weave, anyway?

There wasn't a lot of surprise at the "what" but just the "when," when the The Leader weekly newspaper filed for bankruptcy, fired the staff, and locked the doors August 30. There was no skullduggery involved, but a simple matter of economics. "The newspaper had not been making enough money from ad sales for quite some time," a source told me.

In Charlotte media circles, rumors about the demise of the 30-year-old Leader popped up every month or so over the past couple of years and increased after the death of founder Stan Kaplan last December. Several key editorial types had left over the past year, and the paper was running thin, both in page numbers and the number of staffers it employed. Of late, John Kilgo had worked as "assistant publisher/ editor," and was damned near writing the whole paper, helped by a few columnists here and there.

No matter what you thought of The Leader, I hate to see one less newspaper option for Charlotte. We don't need less local opinion in our community; we always need more.

A sharp-eared listener of WXRC-FM had a good prediction for me Labor Day weekend: "They're changing again!" That's when the station began playing entire albums and DJs were non-existent: the fix was in for another format change.Lo and behold, 95.7 has changed its tunes again, this time calling itself "95.7 The Ride" and debuting the format September 3rd. It promises "a mix of songs that Baby Boomers first heard on AM, then took those preferences to FM," so the info goes. Two things are interesting: WXRC is promising to take no more than 3 commercial breaks in an hour, and has dumped syndicated morning guys Lex & Terry in favor or more music. Let me know what you think.

A documentary focusing on a historic Charlotte high school airs on UNC-TV later this month is worth your viewing, considering recent school plan controversies. Plus, it's a wonderful slice of the city's history. "There Was A Colored School" tells the story of Second Ward High School, opened in 1942 as the first high school for black students in Mecklenburg County. It was located in the neighborhood that used to be called "Brooklyn," which was a vital part of the city and the hub of the black community.The beauty in creating this documentary was the treasure trove of footage from a Johnson C. Smith professor, who filmed a day in the life of the students in 1942. The half-hour combines that rare film with remembrances from Second Ward alumni who gathered to watch it. You'll meet former teachers and students from that era, who share their memories of life at the school and in the neighborhood. The school's demolition took place in 1969, which was the signal that open segregation was finally dying.

The project was produced by the North Carolina Center for Educational Films and was partially funded by the Arts and Science Council and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. "There Was A Colored School" airs on UNC-TV September 22 at 10:30pm.

media briefs...Local TV producer Rick Willenzik has won a bronze Telly award for his video "Jerseys In the Rafters," which chronicles the greatest UNC Tarheels hoopsters from Jordan to Jamison. The Telly is a national award that honors non-network commercials, films, and productions.Big nominations for WKKT-FM from the Country Music Association. Morning man Paul Schadt is up for large market personality of the year, and the station is vying for large market station of the year, with awards presented on CBS November 6.

Cat snore fever is catching bigger than West Nile Virus among some sports media types who aren't even going on the road to cover our hapless NFL team this season. Word has it that few, if any, Raleigh and Columbia sports reporters are traveling with the Carolina Panthers, which in my view is a must, unless you're just running those tired highlights at 11.

From our "Pick a Different Verb" department, we suggest that new Panthers radio guy Eugene Robinson find some other way to describe a bone-crunching hit, tackle, smackdown, and the like. Robinson used the term "molested" on the August 23 broadcast from New England.

Stay tuned. . .and never forget the victims of September 11.

Shannon Reichley is the producer of "Handmade Gifts," running in September on the DIY cable TV network. E-mail her at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com)

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