- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

The quarterly television ratings sweep concluded last week, giving local viewers a respite from all those “special reports” on the news about K Street hookers, waking up during surgery and the hazards of hip-hugger jeans.

And that’s just what ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) aired.

Here is the Channel Surfer’s review of the other frequently titillating, occasionally illuminating stories.

Rising to the occasion. CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) showed enterprise and imagination with its reporting.

Anchor Gurvir Dhindsa offered an intelligent series on same-sex unions, an issue other stations have largely ignored.

Another series, the elegantly produced “Four Days in November,” marked the 40th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination by having D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other Washingtonians discuss how the event shaped their youth.

The station even staged a town-hall-style meeting on youth violence, recalling its old “In Our Lives” Saturday morning series for teens.

WUSA may no longer rule the ratings, but the folks at dear old Broadcast House still shine.

Props to Fox. Too often, Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) relies on stories about bedbugs and toxic mold to get it through sweeps. Not this month.

Anchor Tracey Neale cemented her star status with ambitious profiles of sniper John Allen Muhammad and his accused accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, that reminded us these men were once human.

Meanwhile, colleague Elisabeth Leamy demonstrated true range: She aired a whimsical report on why Metro buses are frequently late, then uncovered an internal debate within the National Archives over displaying human skins that the Nazis collected during the Holocaust.

WRC: Still solid. NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) ace Tom Sherwood took a break from covering City Hall to report on a rodent infestation in the suburbs. Colleague Eun Yang deftly handled reports on the Alexandria police department’s antistalking unit and efforts to curb speeding in school zones.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be sweeps without a Doreen Gentzler report on Viagra.

Revenge of the cliches. WJLA’s classy anchors Maureen Bunyan and Leon Harris shouldn’t be reduced to introducing silly stories on K Street hookers and the like. Viewers shouldn’t be forced to watch. Thankfully, most didn’t.

On the other hand … WJLA’s Doug McKelway took an inventive approach to covering the tired debate over “The Reagans” miniseries by examining the role Internet bloggers played in demonizing the drama.

Also: Mr. Harris conducted an intriguing interview with an unusually animated Mayor Williams, and Andrea McCarren likely fired up many viewers with her report on unprocessed evidence in local rape cases.

Fond farewells. WUSA covered former D.C. Mayor Walter E. Washington’s Oct. 31 funeral by airing interviews with mourners over moody jazz music. There was no reporter narration, and none was needed. Channel 9 stalwart Dave Statter also gave a fitting send-off to beloved broadcaster Eddie Gallaher, who died Nov. 26.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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