Winter Games Fail to Supply Big Wins for KNBC News

by Claudia Peschiutta

Strong ratings for the Winter Games brought millions more viewers to KNBC-TV (Channel 4) for the February sweeps, but that didn't translate into the huge wins expected for the station's newscasts.

Despite replacing the "Weakest Link" with Olympics coverage in the 3-4 p.m. time slot, KNBC was once again running behind rival KABC-TV (Channel 7) in the afternoon news race as of last week, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

KNBC widened its lead at 11 p.m. but lost many of the viewers who tuned into the primetime Olympics block. In the weekday ratings for Jan. 31-Feb.15, KNBC averaged a 9.7 rating at 11 p.m., down from the 15.8 posted from 8-11 p.m. but an improvement over the 8.2 earned during the last February sweeps. KABC, which led into its newscast with a 6.8 quarter-hour rating, came out of its 11 p.m. news with a 6.2. KCBS-TV (Channel 2) remained a distant third.

KNBC was trying to look at the brighter side behind the numbers. "Our (11 p.m.) product is up 11 percent year-to-year. Everyone else's product is down," said David Bright, research director for KNBC. When asked if the newscasts' ratings have met expectations, Bright replied: "Since we've never done a Winter Games it's always hard to tell where it should be."

Weekly Changes

While other publication executives are talking about cost-cutting, Pasadena Weekly Publisher Charles Gerencser is talking about hiring and acquisitions.

Much smaller than other local alternative papers, such as the LA Weekly and New Times Los Angeles, the Pasadena Weekly plans to expand its coverage area, buying other small publications or launching new ones. The Weekly, which recently added three full-time employees, will also undergo a redesign in April. The new look could include a name change, said Gerencser, former publisher of New Times.

Ventura Newspaper Inc., publisher of the alternative weekly Ventura County Reporter, owns the Pasadena Weekly. "As one evolves the mission and the footprint of a media property, it's possible that you can outgrow a name," he said.

Changes in the paper's editorial focus may provide some indication of what's to come. The Weekly has extended its coverage area to include everything from Burbank to Duarte and from La Crescenta to Monterey Park.

"The entire east side of Los Angeles County is under-served by mainstream weeklies like the LA Weekly and New Times," Gerencser said. While he would not discuss specific financial information about the paper, Gerencser said the Weekly's revenues were up 20 percent year over year and indicated that the paper has at least a 20 percent profit margin.

Publishing Solution

The demise of The Industry Standard and the struggles of Red Herring has only encouraged Byron Crowell to jump into the shrinking world of tech magazines.

The founder and president of NuOS Corp., a tech-focused direct marketing firm in Los Angeles, Crowell this month launched IT Solution Journal, a bimonthly print and online publication for information-technology professionals. Problems at other tech magazines, which have been hurt by the dot-com bust and decline in advertising spending, left IT Solution with less competition and a pool of available talent, Crowell said.

Instead of creating a magazine and then finding an audience for it, Solution Publishing used NuOS' direct-marketing database to identify potential readers and based the content on their interests and preferences.

IT Solution also differs from other magazines in that the free publication does not depend on ad revenues or subscriptions. The magazine will provide NuOS with a subscriber list that can be sold to marketers, Crowell said.

More Upheaval at KPFK

KPFK-FM (90.7) kicked off its annual winter fund drive last week despite objections from several staff members who refused to appeal to listeners for donations given the financial turmoil within the Pacifica Foundation.

Marc Cooper, host of "Radio Nation," said his weekday show was indefinitely suspended and three other employees were dismissed for not cooperating with the fund-raising effort. Station Manager Mark Schubb, who had been placed on administrative leave in January, said he was fired earlier this month. Interim Station Manager Steven Starr declined comment.

A recently completed audit revealed that the foundation, which oversees KPFK and four other radio stations, faces a $5.5-million shortfall. Citing financial problems, the foundation last week dismantled its national news operation. Without an "articulated, serious, mature, comprehensive business plan for reorganization... it seems to me unethical to ask the audience to give money," Cooper said. The fund drive was set to continue through March 1.

Jazz and Java

KTWV-FM (94.7) has gone beyond the airwaves and into the supermarket coffee aisle.

The smooth-jazz station has teamed up with the Newhall Coffee Roasting Co. to produce "Smooth Java Blends," a line of gourmet coffees being sold at Pavilion markets throughout Southern California. A portion of the proceeds from each bag sold will be donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Foundation.

School's In

Former Los Angeles Times Publisher Kathryn Downing began working on a new career as a school superintendent.

Downing is one of 25 fellows chosen to participate in a superintendent-training program sponsored by L.A. billionaire Eli Broad and Michigan Gov. John Engler. The first of six sessions, meant to prepare participants to lead urban school districts, took place last week in Marina del Rey.

Downing left the Times, along with former Times Mirror Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Willes, after the paper was purchased by Tribune Co. in 2000.

In Other News...

After about a year of promoting itself as the "NewsTalk" station, KRLA-AM (870) has changed its slogan to "SmartTalk." KRLA Vice President and General Manager Dave Armstrong said the phrase "really sets you apart much more than 'NewsTalk' does and is certainly more memorable."... Marko Radlovic replaced Bob Visotcky as vice president and general manager of Spanish Broadcasting System Inc.'s local stations, KLAX-FM (97.9) and KXOL-FM (96.3). Visotcky had been serving as station manager... Former KNBC-TV sports producer Greg Dowling became news director of Fox Sports Net's "Southern California Sports Report"... Tom Roe was named sales manager for KFWB-AM (980). His career in radio includes eight years as general sales manager at KLOS-FM (95.5).

Staff reporter Claudia Peschiutta can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 229 or at

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