- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The July TV ratings sweep concluded last week, but the Fat Lady is holding that last note until the Channel Surfer weighs in with his review of the month’s reporting.

cWJLA-TV (Channel 7) reporter Andrea McCarren examined the U.S. Army’s role in orchestrating the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue during the Iraq war last year, right down to instructing the demonstrators where to stand for the TV cameras.

The piece also included a wide-angle photograph that showed the town square where the demonstration occurred was practically empty, although TV reports at the time suggested it was teeming with Iraqis.

Some elements of the story have been covered elsewhere, including the documentary “Control Room,” but WJLA still deserves praise for airing it. After all, how often does a local TV station turn its camera on broadcast journalism itself?

• WUSA-TV (Channel 9) may be in turmoil behind the scenes these days, but its newscasts still feature some of the most skillful reporting on the airwaves, particularly its smart “USA Tonight” program.

Special kudos go to Stacey Cohan, who is carving a nice niche for herself by reporting on the environment, a beat other TV stations ignore, and Doug Buchanan, who is admirably trying to preserve the art of the lighthearted feature story.

• Some may dismiss it as gimmicky, but WUSA has enlivened its newscasts by unchaining its anchors from their desks and allowing them to move around the set.

In a town where most news shows look the same, this has given the station a distinctive look. Plus, it’s nice to know anchors have legs.

cWJLA was the only station in town that didn’t send a reporter or anchor to Boston to cover the Democratic National Convention.

In our book, a Washington-area TV station staying home during a political convention is like a Seattle weatherman ignoring the rain.

cDespite the summer slowdown, WTTG-TV (Channel 5) was as busy as ever in July.

The highlights: Brian Bolter’s well-sourced report on illegal slot machines in Maryland, Michael Gargiulo’s thoughtful piece on arming airline pilots, and Elisabeth Leamy’s investigation into D.C. taxi drivers who illegally cross the border into Montgomery County.

But did the Fox station really need to devote three minutes to a report on “hidden hazards” around the house? Hopefully, most viewers already know they need to be careful throwing away oily rags and to avoid overloading their electric outlets.

And isn’t it time for WTTG to retire its silly “kiddie car thieves” logo, which undermines its otherwise serious coverage of the District’s rash of juvenile car thefts?

Howard for hire

Hillary Howard, WUSA’s popular morning weathercaster, said she was disappointed to learn last week that the station doesn’t plan to renew her contract when it ends in mid-October.

But the eternally sunny Ms. Howard isn’t looking back. “I’ve worked with a spectacular group of people, from the production assistants to the anchors,” she said, adding that she hopes to land a new job soon.

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

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