With their over-reliance on tired, now nearly meaningless "breaking news" banners, it's easy to forget that true breaking news, big stories -- not every piddly fire and car wreck -- is what local TV news outlets can cover best. Saturday's shooting deaths of three Pittsburgh Police officers in Stanton Heights offered a reminder of that strength.
Not all stations are created equal, nor all anchors and reporters. No one is perfect in a high-stress situation such as this, but WTAE weekend morning anchor Janelle Hall made the best impression. She handled the live ongoing coverage with a calm, steady tone and managed to avoid repeating herself too often, one of the easiest traps for a news anchor to stumble into in this sort of situation.
Retired WPXI reporter Andy Gastmeyer has made good on his promise to launch a blog. He pointedly describes his blog -- called Beyond a Minute-Fifteen, named for the running time of many TV news stories -- as an effort to think "outside the box that restricts thought to a minute-fifteen seconds and favors the sensational over substance and somehow symbolizes the belief, on the part of many local TV news managers and the consultants they bow to, that you can't overestimate the dimwittedness of your viewers."
So far, aside from that introduction, Gastmeyer has not offered commentary on local TV news, just his thoughts on assorted topics, from the AIG scandal to the surcharge on 3-D movies. Read Gastmeyer's blog at andy-gastmeyer.blogspot.com.
WQED, Channel 13, shut off its analog signal on April 1, the 55th anniversary of when the station began broadcasting. Since then, the station has received about 150 phone calls and e-mails; the Post-Gazette has received about a half-dozen e-mails on the subject.
Paul Byers, WQED director of engineering, said problems encountered by viewers watching Channel 13 over-the-air were varied, but in almost all cases he was able to help talk viewers through how to get the picture back.
Byers said about half the people he spoke with had not scanned or re-scanned their TVs for digital channels or they had TVs that were lacking a digital tuner.
An ABC executive suggested in January that the remaining episodes of "Pushing Daisies," "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money" might never air due to assorted complications, but the network has found space for them this summer.
All three will be burned off on low-rated Saturday night at 10.
"Daisies" airs for three weeks beginning May 30. "Eli" starts its final run of four episodes on June 20 and "Dirty" begins its four-episode swan song July 18.
NBC has given up on low-rated "Kings," yanking the drama from its Sunday night time slot. The show will air at 8 p.m. Saturday starting April 18.
A new season of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday. ... A new Kathy Griffin stand-up special premieres on Bravo at 9 p.m. Wednesday. ... Zac Efron will host "Saturday Night Live" this weekend with musical guest Yeah Yeah Yeahs. ... HBO has renewed comedy "Eastbound & Down" for a second season to air in 2010. ... Leonard "Mr. Spock" Nimoy will guest star in the season finale of "Fringe" on May 12, playing Massive Dynamic founder William Bell. ... Former "Price Is Right" host Bob Barker makes a guest appearance on "Price" (11 a.m. weekdays, KDKA) Thursday. ... ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will begin airing in HD next week on WTAE.
Today's TV Q&A with Rob Owen responds to questions about "True Blood," "Mad Men" and "Life." Read Tuned In Journal blog posts about a surprise last night on "Southland" and a new season of "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union."
In this week's Tuned In Podcast, discussion topics include the cancellation of "Guiding Light," the series finales of "ER" and "Life on Mars" and the second season finale of "Damages." Listen or subscribe at post-gazette.com/podcast.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1112.