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Channel 2 scores low in the new 'Red Zone'

I'm a fan of Channel 2's decision to copy ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" and provide viewers with a rundown on the right side of the screen of new stories it will address on its newscasts.

But the idea of tweaking ESPN's interview segment, "The Hot Seat," on Channel 2's newscast is a loser. I doubt Channel 2 would say "The Hot Seat" was the inspiration for its newest newscast innovation, but it sure has similarities to it.

On Monday, the Red Coats of WGRZ-TV premiered a live segment with the catchy title of the "Red Zone." The title should appeal to football fans, since the red zone refers to the area inside the 20-yard line where teams can have a difficult time scoring.

No one seems to have had more trouble there recently than the Buffalo Bills. The Red Zone pretty much stands for failure in Buffalo. And Channel 2's inaugural three-minute segment featuring Lynn Marinelli, the chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature, failed to score as well.

Marinelli sat in a chair in the "Red Zone" as co-anchors Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler peppered her with five questions about county government and her political future. The questions elicited answers that wouldn't have made a 15-second sound bite if the interview had been taped instead of live and hadn't been done by news anchors.

Amherst Councilman Bill Kindel's three-minute Tuesday visit to the Red Zone, prompted by his verbal battles with new Amherst supervisor Satish Mohan, was just as empty and devoid of news.

Since local news programs generally only have time for 11 to 14 minutes of news, wasting three of them on a gimmick designed to showcase anchors on any night seems rather counterproductive.

After all, Channel 2 often doesn't devote that much time nightly on Ed Kilgore's sports reports.

The Red Zone, which the station says is designed to ask community leaders questions viewers want answered, is another Channel 2 News example of using style over substance and finding ways to promote itself. I can almost see the promos now extolling this supposed innovation.

Perhaps some future visitors to the Red Zone will bring news, but early indications are that Channel 2's scoring percentage there will be about as high as the Bills' average.


Ellen Crooke, the Channel 2 news director who has been at the helm during the department's ratings successes, would appear to be a possible candidate for a similar job at the Cleveland station owned by Gannett Broadcasting (Channel 2's owner). The station's current news director has announced that he will be retiring at the end of June.

"It has not been decided who is going there," said Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner. "It is too early to tell."


It isn't too early to tell what Channel 2's policy toward revealing Olympics results is during the Turin Games. But it is a little confusing and inconsistent. At 6 p.m. Monday, Kilgore declined to reveal the results of events that had previously been carried on CBC and was all over Channel 2's competition and on the Internet. Kilgore just told viewers what taped events were on NBC that night and added he didn't want to ruin the surprise. But there he was Tuesday telling viewers they could look away before revealing that American Ted Ligety had won the combined skiing event and Bode Miller had been disqualified.


It was no contest Tuesday in the local ratings battle between "American Idol" and the Winter Olympics. "Idol" won by more than a 2-1 margin in the 8 p.m. hour, pulling in a 19.8 rating on WUTV. That is about 15 percent lower than it has been getting, but it was competing with both Olympic competition and perhaps Valentine's Day celebrations. Channel 2's Olympic coverage had a lowly 8.4 rating in that hour. "House," meanwhile, had an impressive 16.5 rating on WUTV at 9 p.m., soundly defeating the Olympic average of 12.8 in that hour.

The Olympics, which averaged an 11.3 Tuesday for its entire three and a half hours, won the 10 p.m. hour. But Channel 4's 11 p.m. news won the final half-hour competition.


NBC, which had previously announced that it was closing "The Office" for the season on March 30 so star Steve Carell could play a Buffalo congressman in the sequel to "Bruce Almighty," now says the series will have an extra original episode and will run repeats through May 11.

"Joey" is also coming back at 8 p.m. March 7 in place of "Fear Factor."


Wondering why "Las Vegas" will be moving from Mondays to Fridays after the Olympics? According to a trade magazine report, the move is partly due to the National Football League's edict that it wouldn't allow the Vegas show to be promoted during next fall's inaugural season of "Sunday Night Football." According to the report, NBC wants to use Sunday Night Football to promote its Monday shows, so the network decided to make the move early.


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