- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) had the most-watched late news in the Washington area during the February ratings sweeps, when it aired investigative reports on bedbugs, toxic mold and dead zoo animals.
An average 204,000 households have tuned into the station's 10 p.m. newscast each night since Jan. 30, when the 28-day sweeps began. Sweeps are quarterly periods when stations try to boost ratings so they can charge advertisers more for airtime.
Nielsen Media Research Inc. says viewership for WTTG's late news is up 59 percent over last February not bad for a newscast that competes with network fare like "CSI: Miami" and "ER."
On the other hand, WTTG's 10 p.m. news follows Fox's powerhouse prime-time lineup, which includes "Joe Millionaire" and "American Idol." And then there are the station's breathlessly-hyped investigative reports, which also seem to bring the viewers in.
The 11 p.m. news on NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) averaged about 191,000 households during the first 26 days of the sweeps, a 7 percent increase from February 2002. CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) averaged 164,000 households, a 59 percent increase, and ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) averaged 114,000 households, a 30 percent jump.
Viewership was up for most stations in the other key time periods not surprising, given the big stories that dominated the headlines in February, including the Presidents Day weekend snowstorm and the Columbia disaster.
As usual, WRC led in most races. The station relied on softer features, such as reporter Liz Crenshaw's "Does It Really Do That?" product-test reports, as well as anchor Jim Vance's moving profile of a Washington man who is documenting the lives of friends killed in the District's drug wars.
WUSA used the sweeps to introduce its investigative unit, led by reporter Stacey Cohan. To its credit, the unit focused on stories about complex problems, such as Virginia's troubled medical-transportation system.
WJLA was fairly quiet in February, in part because it began the sweeps as a ship without a captain. The station's new news director, Bill Lord, didn't arrive until Feb. 3.
Weekdays from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., WRC's news led with 176,000 households (up 4 percent), followed by WJLA's news with 134,000 households (up 46 percent), WTTG's "The Simpsons" reruns with 131,000 households (up 15 percent) and WUSA's news with 127,000 households (up 11 percent).
Weekdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., WRC's news led with 136,000 households (up 16 percent), followed by WUSA's news with 108,000 households (up 32 percent) and WJLA's news with 106,000 households (up 19 percent). WTTG's 5 p.m. news averaged 81,000 households, down 37 percent from last February, when it carried "Judge Judy."
Weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., WRC's news led with 81,000 households (up 11 percent), followed by WUSA's news with 54,000 households (down 7 percent) and WJLA's news with 48,000 households (up 26 percent). WTTG's early news, which begins at 5:30 a.m., averaged 58,000 households, a 41 percent increase.
Around the dial …
Chikage Windler, WRC's weekend meteorologist since 2001, is joining NBC's Boston affiliate. Ms. Windler was also considered for WJLA's morning weather gig. Meanwhile, CNBC meteorologist Joe Witte visited WJLA last week, and word around the water cooler is he chatted with management about the weekend weather job.
James White will become local host of "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio affiliate WAMU-FM (88.5) on Monday, replacing Lakshmi Singh, who left in October. Mr. White has worked at WAMU since 1983.


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