In a hushed studio beneath a forest of lights, Fritz Coleman stands, gesturing broadly.

On television, it appears that the KNBC-TV Channel 4 weatherman is pointing out areas of high and low pressure where they are headed and whence they came.

Coleman does his slow-motion dance on a sky blue, moveable platform about eight feet square that slopes upward and turns into a plain wall that serves as his backdrop. As he gestures, he watches small monitors mounted at either end of the platform that let him know where he stands relative to the images that seem to move behind him.

"It's controlled chaos here," said anchor Colleen Williams. "It all looks seamless on TV, but it doesn't feel that way to us. When I'm on the set, I may have a producer and a director both talking in my ear at once."

It's a typical day in the life of a local TV news operation in this case, the highest-rated news station in town.

"I haven't actually had a conversation with my husband since Tuesday," said News Director Nancy Bauer-Gonzales. "I've left him voicemail, but I haven't actually conversed with him." Her husband is KCAL-TV Channel 9 news anchor David Gonzales; together they have a 9-month-old son.

Things are less frantic in the office of KNBC General Manager Carole Black, a stylish woman in a pink suit and navy shirt who is preparing for a biannual budget presentation she gives to representatives from the network station group. She is in charge not only of the newscast, but of the entire station, including sales, marketing, operations, engineering and finance.

It's going to be a challenging year. "Seinfeld" has evaporated from the strong prime-time lineup, NBC lost out on the NFL, and its popular drama "ER" is becoming "very expensive, at $13 million an episode," said Black. "We've had to figure out how we can have higher revenues and get profits up. So we're doing a little belt tightening. We have to be strategic in how we spend our money."

Owned-and-operated stations are big profit centers for the networks, and Channel 4 is very important to NBC generating more revenues than any other NBC station, except WNBC in New York.

"There are seven VHF stations in Los Angeles, so the money is split up between more people," Black said.

Black's other concerns for the day include meeting with Bauer-Gonzales to discuss contracts that are coming up for renewal.


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