A week into the current sweeps period, local news is awash in sleaze.
Monday night at 10 p.m., for example, KNXV-TV Channel 15's Bill Spencer will--salaciously, no doubt--air a story titled "Sex Offender Zip Codes." (They're hell on real estate values. Or something.)
How does the Flash know? Channel 15 staffers still smoldering over the wholesale changes at the station handed over a copy of the top-secret February sweeps calendar and other internal documents.
They show that after a year of stagnant ratings, the brass at Channel 15 is apparently rethinking some of its decisions in scuttling its previous, harder-hitting incarnation as the "No Chit Chat" news program.
A station newsletter, for example, indicates that two older Channel 15 features are actually making comebacks. Consumer reporter Stephen Cooper will resurrect the "What's Buggin' You" spots. And after losing all of the reporters who comprised "The Investigators" to other markets, KNXV has bestowed the title on sometimes anchor, sometimes reporter Paul Joncich.
On the 17th, Joncich will air an investigation of psychic hot lines (Hidden camera reveals that psychic, unknown to caller, actually relies on Magic Eight Ball). On Friday the 20th, look for Spencer's report on student smoking areas in high schools (Look for a confessional silhouette interview with Joe Camel).
Other projects: "Gated Communities" (2/9; And the TV journalists who live in them), "Hospital Mortality Rates" (2/10; People are dying!), "Phone Rates" (2/13; Why Paul Reiser is the most obnoxious man on TV), "Filter Fallout" (2/19; Look for confessional silhouette interview with Joe Camel), "Casino Security" (2/23; Guards learn how to break the news that $300,000 slot-machine jackpots are actually "malfunctions"), "Dirtiest Supermarkets" (2/24; What's Eddie Basha doing behind that apron?), "Cost of Vitamins" (Look for a confessional silhouette interview with Fred and Barney), "Bad Prescriptions" (2/27; Marc Bailey revisits really bummer trips), "Teeth Whitening" (3/2; Believe us, we know!) Sheriff Joke (3/4; Bailey asks the searing question: What's it really like to be America's Toughest Sheriff?).
Meanwhile, in the 5 p.m. slot, look for Genetic Tests (2/13; Missing a chromosome? Call "What's Buggin' You"), Salaries (2/16; Anchors admit they make six figures and ask, what, doesn't everyone?), Human Guinea Pigs (2/25; Expose on Coyotes fans who can't see the ice but still buy tickets).
Despite this cornucopia of journalistic plenty, KNXV insiders say they don't expect to generate much in the way of ratings--everyone in local news expects CBS' coverage of the Winter Olympics to dominate the month. And nothing, not even Joe Camel, can compete with the luge.
ASU Won't Spare Us Majerus
Sources in positions to know tell the Flash that in spite of the incredible season he's scripting for the Arizona State University hoop team, first-year, interim coach Don Newman should begin looking for a new job.
The sources say Utah's Rick Majerus, the Pillsbury Dough Boy of college basketball, will be hired to lead the Sun Devils after this season.
"It's a done deal," one source says, explaining that Majerus' lucrative sneaker-endorsement contract has been revised, allowing him to bring that income with him to ASU.
Under Newman, the Sun Devils, who were picked to finish last in the Pac-10 this season, are overachieving. They're 16-8 and, by all appearances, have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA tournament--a lofty accomplishment indeed, considering the turmoil wrought by Bill Frieder and ASU's moribund 10-20 mark last year. The Sun Devils, playing with essentially a six-man rotation, have taken an elite Kansas squad to overtime, shocked No. 20 Cincinnati on its home court, whipped (then-No. 4-rated) Stanford on its home court and, last weekend, toppled highly regarded Washington.
No. 5-ranked Utah is 20-1 as of this writing. But the only ranked team Utah has played this year, New Mexico, beat the Utes, in Albuquerque.
Under almost any scenario, Majerus would be a great catch for ASU. In his nine seasons at Utah, he's won 299 games. The corpulent hoop guru is a beloved media figure and would no doubt put the ASU program on the right track. But in a just world, Newman would get the job.
What do J. Fife Symington III, John McCain, Major League Baseball and Vernon Jordan have in common? They've all been represented by John Dowd, Esq.
The Washington Post reported that Jordan hired Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. and Dowd to represent him in the ongoing saga involving his friend, President Bill Clinton, and a woman who once sat on Clinton's staff, Monica Lewinsky.
Jordan has been accused (in the court of public opinion) of advising Lewinsky to lie to investigators about her alleged liaisons with Clinton.
If Dowd's defense of Jordan holds with his defense of the Fifester, expect him to float the theory that all claims against Jordan are based on "errors and emissions."
Jordan and Dowd are partners at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm.
It's Your World
If you want to know what some Arizona Republic employees think of their workplace, go online and check out newsmait.com/intel. News Mait bills itself as a writers' cooperative, and this site claims to offer uncensored intelligence on work environments.
Oh, what the heck. The Flash will save you the trouble of typing in that Web address. What follows is the verbatim entry regarding the Republic:
If your [sic] a minority, watch out! This paper talks a good game about hiring minorities and diversity, but when and if they do hire minorities, they let them wither on the vine, giving them bad assignments and no chance for promotion. Very few minorities stick around for long.
Another View: Possibly one of the worst newspapers to work at, terms of both editorial content and employee relations. Consider that Dan Quayle is in line to be the next publisher. Typical "boys club" mentality, corporate surrealism, and a publisher who is dedicated to tearing down the wall between advertising and editorial. HOWEVER: This company . . . is a moneymaker and pays very, very well. A starting reporter can expect to make $35,000 and be making $45,000 within five years. If you are white, talented, know how to take orders, don't rock boats and are a looking for a chance to sell out, this is it. At least until the next St. Valentine's Day-style massacre: In January 1997, 65 reporters and editors were laid off, supposedly to cut costs. Most of the positions, however, were refilled with new people, replacing anyone who had been a troublemaker.
Yet Another View: An odd place to work. The city is sprawling, boring and ugly, just like the newspaper. Excellent pay and benefits are balanced against laughable editorial standards that would put a first-year journalism student to shame. Managers engage in the usual favoritism you might expect to find in any large business, which can be worked to your advantage, I guess. Bureau reporters pump out 5-6 stories per week, 1-2 briefs per day, so expect coverage there to be quite superficial. Editorial slant is extremely conservative, pro-business, anti-environmental. A good place for a young Republican to get a start.
Feed the Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, email@example.com
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