- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) will devote half of its 10 p.m. newscast Friday to a report on sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, including a rare interview with his father.

“We wanted to know how a kid who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut ended up on trial for these shootings. Where was the missing link?’” said WTTG anchor Tracey Neale, who handled the reporting for the half-hour special.

“Malvo: The Search for Answers” features interviews with Mr. Malvo’s friends and relatives, including his father Leslie, whom Ms. Neale said was once believed dead. “He is basically an uneducated construction worker. He breaks down [in front of the camera],” she said.

According to Ms. Neale, some of the people she interviewed believe Mr. Malvo’s mother sold him to the other sniper suspect, John Allen Muhammad. Mr. Malvo’s mother, who has granted few interviews, declined to speak to Ms. Neale.

WTTG’s report focuses on Mr. Malvo, not the sniper victims. “We certainly took the victims into consideration, but it felt more appropriate to profile them in separate stories,” Ms. Neale said.

The station is scheduled to air a lengthy profile of Mr. Muhammad on Nov. 14.

Ms. Neale was absent from her anchor chair for three weeks this fall while reporting the stories, which took her to Jamaica, Seattle and Baton Rouge, La. She worked on the specials with producer Terri Tolliver and photographers Lance Ing, Mickey McGuire and Steve Williams.

Mixed bag

Ratings for WJLA-TV (Channel 7) have been mixed since Thursday, when former CNN star Leon Harris debuted as co-anchor of its weekday 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

On Thursday, the first day of the 28-day November ratings sweep, WJLA finished second in its time slot at 5 p.m., fourth at 6 p.m. and third at 11 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

Things perked up Friday, when the ABC affiliate finished second at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

On Monday, WJLA finished fourth at 5 p.m. and tied with CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) for third at 6 p.m.

At 11 p.m., WUSA — powered by a “CSI: Miami” lead-in and Gordon Peterson’s report on the unsolved Bishop family murders in Bethesda — whipped NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4). WJLA’s late news didn’t air until after midnight because “Monday Night Football” ran late.

Bill Lord, vice president of news for WJLA and its sister cable network, NewsChannel 8, said viewers don’t change their news habits overnight. “We’re looking long term. This isn’t a minute-by-minute battle,” he said.

The November sweep will be WRC’s to lose. During the quiet October sweep, WRC had the top-rated newscast in every time period except weekdays at 4 p.m., when it finished second behind WJLA’s still-potent “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

WTTG, Rudin settle

Substitute weatherman Steve Rudin and his WTTG bosses “have resolved their differences to their mutual satisfaction,” according to Mr. Rudin’s attorney. James M. Eisenmann. Mr. Rudin claimed he was unfairly passed over for a full-time forecasting gig.

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

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