- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Local television news operations are planning extensive coverage of the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but some advertisers will avoid the somber programming.
The major networks plan marathon coverage of the anniversary, including memorial ceremonies around the nation. The Washington affiliates will break away from the networks so they can air their local newscasts, which are likely to focus on the anniversary of the Pentagon attack.
Some media buyers are advising clients to not purchase airtime.
"People are going to be very emotional that day. No one is going to want to see ads urging them to buy a new car," said Howard Bomstein, president of the Bomstein Agency, a Washington ad agency.
"You just don't know how people will react if you cut from an emotional September 11 news report to a frivolous commercial. It could end up being very detrimental to the advertiser," said Deborah Cover-Lewis, president of Bethesda advertising firm Media Vision Inc.
Advertising is the main source of revenue for broadcasters, which are struggling to recover from the recession.
Sales representatives at some stations say it's too early to tell how many advertisers will be skittish about anniversary-related programming.
Local news directors say they won't alter coverage to suit advertisers, but they also say their programming won't necessarily be depressing.
ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) will kick off its coverage Sept. 10 with a local prime-time news special that will be "uplifting," said Steven D. Hammel, vice president and news director.
"It's going to be very forward-looking. We want to look at how people survived and where they go from here," Mr. Hammel said.
NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) has tentative plans for anchor Jim Vance to hold a series of forums with local clergy, students and rescue workers. The forums will be brief and air throughout the day, said Robert L. Long, vice president of news and operations.
"We will do personal stories that wouldn't find a home in the network coverage," he said.
Between the local stations and the networks, viewers face a September 11 overload.
NBC plans an expanded version of "Today" in the morning and a Tom Brokaw-hosted town hall meeting in the afternoon. The evening schedule includes a Kennedy Center concert with first lady Laura Bush and a repeat of last season's terrorism-themed episode of "The West Wing."
Peter Jennings will preside over ABC's daylong coverage, which is being modeled after its marathon millennium coverage two years ago.
CBS plans to extend "The Early Show" until at least noon, but it hasn't set its afternoon schedule, partly because it's still trying to gauge the level of interest among the public and its affiliates, a spokeswoman said.
The network's prime-time lineup includes "60 Minutes II," which will feature an exclusive interview with President Bush.
Fox will air a two-hour prime-time news special.
Not all local newscasts will be devoted to September 11, news directors say.
"By 5 and 6 o'clock in the evening, we expect there will be some people who are going to be ready to hear about what else happened in the world that day," Mr. Long said.
This just in
WTTG has tapped Gwen Tolbert as weather forecaster for its afternoon newscast, which debuts in early September. She previously worked for the CBS affiliate in Dallas.

Got a tip for Channel Surfing? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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