- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Erica Hilary has noticed the first sign she's getting older: Her lips are changing color.

"They used to be really kind of bright, you know, pinkish. Now they're like, dead," she said.

Best pal Debra Leigh tries to cheer her up. "From my vantage point, your lips look wonderful. When I look at mine now, I just can't believe lips can crinkle that much," Ms. Leigh said.

Just another chat between two girlfriends? Nope. This one has a twist: It's being broadcast across Washington.

Ms. Leigh and Ms. Hilary host "Girl Talk," a new program that airs Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. on soft-rock music station WASH-FM (97.1). It is a unique experiment in Washington radio, defined more by the strident male voices of Howard Stern and Elliot Segal.

The conversation about lip color is typical of the breezy exchanges on "Girl Talk," which debuted Sept. 1. Other topics have included staying friends with your "ex-" after a breakup, cell-phone etiquette and keeping secrets.

Think of it as "Sex and the City" without the smut or "Designing Women" without the political bent.

"We only have two rules: no guy-bashing, and Erica and I are not experts on anything," Ms. Leigh said.

Ms. Leigh, a weekend disc jockey at WASH, and Ms. Hilary, one of the station's traffic reporters, have been friends for years. They conceived "Girl Talk" when they realized there was nothing like it on the radio.

The women originally pitched the show to a Minneapolis station that specializes in women-oriented talk. The station wanted to hire the women, but Ms. Leigh and Ms. Hilary decided they weren't willing to uproot their families, so they quietly slipped their demo tape onto the desk of WASH Program Director Steve Allan.

He liked it, and agreed to put "Girl Talk" on the air.

Fall ratings won't be available until January, but Mr. Allan said it will probably take a year for the show to catch on.

Will enough folks tune in to make money for Clear Channel Communications Inc., the Texas media conglomerate that owns WASH?

"It's a great idea, but Sunday night is a tough time slot. There aren't a lot of people listening," said Howard Bomstein, a local advertising executive.

But weekends aren't always a dead end in radio. "The Sports Junkies," a popular sports talk show heard weeknights on WJFK-FM (106.7), began as a weekend show.

The target audience for "Girl Talk" is women between 25 and 54, a demographic WASH dominates. "The audience is there. I just hope they find us," Ms. Hilary said.

WJLA move delayed

WJLA-TV (Channel 7) has delayed moving its newsroom to Arlington until it completes negotiations with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The ABC affiliate was expected to begin broadcasting its newscasts from the new digs Sept. 16. The station and the union began meeting with federal mediators last week. Both sides hope to agree on a new contract by Saturday.

WJLA, now based in the Van Ness neighborhood of Northwest Washington, is merging its newsroom with local cable news network NewsChannel 8. Allbritton Communications Co. owns both operations, and is moving them into the old USA Today building in Arlington.

Ratings roundup

More than 630,000 local households tuned in to WJLA Monday night to see the Philadelphia Eagles crush the Washington Redskins. The hourlong Rene Knott special that preceded the game drew almost 191,000 households, winning its time slot.

WJLA also scored with its Sept. 10 prime-time tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. It won its time slot with 177,800 households.

On September 11, NBC's coverage of the memorials in New York and Arlington drew the most viewers on WRC-TV (Channel 4), followed closely by local coverage on Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5).

Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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