- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Sacramento radio station is off the hook and will not face criminal charges in the water intoxication death of a 28-year-old mother of three, prosecutors said Monday.

Jennifer Lea Strange was found dead in her home after taking part in an on-air water-drinking contest, “Hold Your Wee for a Wii,” the morning of Jan. 12. Held at the studio of radio station KDND-FM, the contest called for participants to drink as much water as they could without going to the bathroom.

Mrs. Strange, who came in second in the bid for the Nintendo game console, complained that her head hurt, but “she evidenced no symptoms which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that she was seriously ill or in danger of dying,” the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said.

“She knew what the contest involved when she entered it, and had the option to stop or discontinue her participation in the contest at any time,” prosecutors concluded.

Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for KDND parent company Entercom Communications Corp., said: “This was an unfortunate accident, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathy to the Strange family.”

After Mrs. Strange’s death, Entercom canceled the station’s “Morning Rave” program and fired 10 KDND employees, including three disc jockeys.

Tom Taylor, editor of Inside Radio, said a grand jury investigation or criminal indictment would have “rung very loud alarm bells around the country.”

But even without criminal charges, “the water-drinking contest death has definitely sensitized stations to the need to think through their promotions,” Mr. Taylor said. “At the same time, Americans are still lining up to do crazy stunts of all kinds. Just Monday night, [‘Late Show’ host David] Letterman was doing ‘Stupid Human Tricks.’ And I’m sure ‘Survivor,’ ‘Fear Factor’ and the rest of the reality TV shows get plenty of applicants.”

The station may not be completely off the hook: Strange family attorney Roger A. Dreyer is filing a civil wrongful-death suit.

Murrow Awards

Local Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for “Overall Station Excellence” last week.

Murrow Awards, given by the Radio-Television News Directors Association, recognize “the spirit of excellence that Edward R. Murrow made a standard for the broadcast news profession.”

WTTG also took home awards for investigative reporting and best newscast for its “News Edge at 11.” Other D.C. station winners include WJLA-TV (Channel 7), which got nods for best hard news feature and spot news coverage, and WUSA-TV (Channel 9), which took home a Murrow for sports reporting.

On the D.C. radio front, WTOP-FM (103.5) scored for best newscast and news documentary.

Note: WRC-TV (Channel 4) did not enter the competition.

Russia’s take

Falls Church-based MHz Networks added its fifth round-the-clock, international channel in the Washington area yesterday.

Russia Today, broadcast in English, covers news, business, culture, sports and science. The channel draws from journalists in Russia as well as in London, Paris, Jerusalem, Cairo and the District, according to MHz.

The independent company has four other channels in the area: its flagship Worldview channel; Russian World (in Russian); France 24; and the Nigerian Television Authority.

• Channel Surfing runs on Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3139 or e-mail krowland@washing tontimes.com.

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