- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

NewsChannel 8 has moved its afternoon call-in show "News Talk" to prime time, hoping to transform the program into a local version of CNN's "Larry King Live."
The cable news network has tapped its savvy Maryland political reporter, Bruce DePuyt, to host "News Talk," which now airs Mondays through Thursdays at 8 p.m.
On each edition of the hourlong show, Mr. DePuyt interviews in-studio guests and opens the phone lines to viewers.
"It gives us an opportunity to go beyond what we can do during a traditional newscast. When you're a reporter doing a minute-and-45-second report, there's only so much you can squeeze in," Mr. DePuyt said.
The show got off to a buzz-worthy start Dec. 10, when guests Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Michael S. Steele, Maryland's governor-elect and lieutenant governor-elect, respectively, said they thought Sen. Trent Lott's praise for Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist past was no big deal.
The Washington Post chastised Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele in an editorial two days later, citing the "News Talk" interview. Later, Mr. Steele said Mr. Lott needed to apologize more.
Mr. DePuyt is regarded as one of the best local political reporters in the Washington area, with deep sources in the Maryland State House. He said he will draw on those connections in his new gig, but "News Talk" won't become a nightly platform for "the politician du jour."
Tonight, Mr. DePuyt is scheduled to talk to Robert Egger, the interim executive vice president of the scandal-plagued local chapter of the United Way.
The new version of "News Talk" fills a void in local television since the days of "Panorama," the WTTG-TV (Channel 5) chat show that ended its 20-year run in 1987.
More recently, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) has incorporated daily in-studio interviews into its 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts.
McFarland departs
Scratch one name off the list of contenders to run the combined newsroom of WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and NewsChannel 8.
Bill McFarland, the ABC affiliate's assistant news director since June 2001, is leaving to become the deputy news chief for the network's flagship station in New York.
Mr. McFarland was one of the internal candidates for the position of vice president of news for both stations, which was created in November when WJLA news chief Steven D. Hammel departed to become station manager of the CBS affiliate in Phoenix.
The opportunity to work in New York was too good to pass up, Mr. McFarland said.
"I feel a little bad about leaving so soon [after the merger]," he said, referring to the August union of WJLA and NewsChannel 8. "In some ways, I would have preferred to stay here, because I believe this is the direction all news stations are headed in."
Allbritton Communications Co., which owns WJLA and NewsChannel 8, is expected to fill the new position by mid-January.
Christopher W. Pike, president and general manager of WJLA and NewsChannel 8, praised Mr. McFarland, saying he and Mr. Hammel formed a one-two punch that improved the quality of WJLA's newscasts and boosted newsroom morale.
More comings and goings
Lee Thornton, a University of Maryland journalism professor, has joined PBS affiliate WHUT-TV (Channel 32) as host of its new media affairs show "Front and Center."
Michael Miller joined NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) last week as vice president of sales.

Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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