- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

At about 9 a.m. Sunday, when snow was falling on the Washington area at the rate of about an inch an hour, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) anchor Lesli Foster introduced a live report from meteorologist Hillary Howard, who was stationed outside a diner in McLean.
"What's happening out there, Hillary?" Ms. Foster asked.
"It's snowing," Ms. Howard answered.
There wasn't much more to say after that, but that didn't stop local television anchors and reporters from talking about the storm all day long.
WUSA had wall-to-wall snow coverage from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. So did NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4), although it broke away at 10 a.m. for "The Chris Matthews Show" and "Meet the Press."
WJLA-TV (Channel 7), the ABC affiliate, joined the party at about 9 a.m. It stayed on the air with it for four hours.
Only Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) stuck with its regularly scheduled programming for most of the day, relying on brief reports to update viewers.
Not that there was much to update. The news could essentially be boiled down to one headline: It was snowing. A lot.
Several reporters did their best to enliven their stories.
On WRC, reporter Pat Collins stalked the streets of Dupont Circle, poking a yardstick in the ground to measure the snow. WTTG sportscaster Lou Holder barreled down a hill on a sled.
The meteorologists were on cloud nine, too. Most stations put several weathercasters on the air at once. On WUSA, omnipresent chief meteorologist Topper Shutt tag-teamed the forecast with deputy Tony Pann.
Was it overkill? Not according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.
WRC delivered solid ratings for most of its coverage. When it switched to its regular programming, WUSA's numbers surged.
Meanwhile, WTTG's 10 p.m. Sunday newscast drew what is believed to be the highest audience in its history, 353,570 households.
Viewers hadn't tired of the snow by Monday. WRC, which was expecting lower-than-usual numbers on Presidents Day, had planned to ask Nielsen to throw Monday's numbers out so they wouldn't drag down its February sweeps average. The ratings turned out so good, the station changed its mind.
"There was no shortage of appetite for this story. I don't think you can do too much coverage when you have these once-in-a-decade events," said Robert L. Long, WRC's vice president of news and operations.

Noncompetes bill killed
Maryland lawmakers killed a bill on Friday that would have prohibited TV and radio stations in the state from putting noncompete clauses in their labor contracts.
The clauses prevent anchors, reporters, disc jockeys and some behind-the-scenes staffers from leaving one station to immediately go to work for a competitor. In some cases, workers must wait one year before they can take a job at another station in the same area.
The state Senate Finance Committee voted 6 to 5 to reject the bill. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Delegates in January, but lawmakers are not expected to hold a hearing on it.
A spokesman for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the labor union that lobbied for the bills, said it will likely resume its fight next year.

This just in
Pound another nail in the Journal's coffin. Blair Lee IV, political columnist for the Montgomery Journal since the 1980s, bolted last week for the rival Gazette Newspapers. Mr. Lee is also a frequent guest on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU-FM (88.5).
Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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