- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Gordon Peterson and Kathleen Matthews have pulled out of a National Association of Broadcasters’ summit on “responsible programming” because organizers won’t open the meeting to reporters.

Earlier this month, Mr. Peterson and Mrs. Matthews, two of the Washington area’s most prominent television news anchors, accepted the association’s invitation to moderate separate panel discussions at the March 31 summit. But when the anchors learned the press wasn’t permitted to cover the daylong meeting, they told organizers thanks, but no thanks.

“I just couldn’t participate in something that would not allow people like me to cover it. My job is to let the light in, not to keep it out,” said Mr. Peterson, who marked his 35th anniversary at WUSA-TV (Channel 9), the region’s CBS affiliate, in February.

“The conference is a great idea, and I think the public could learn a lot if it were open,” Mr. Peterson said.

Dcrtv.com, an Internet site that monitors television and radio, reported Mr. Peterson’s decision to withdraw Saturday.

Chris Core, a WMAL-AM (630) talk-show host, also accepted an invitation to moderate a panel discussion at the summit. He could not be reached yesterday, but the association still listed him on its Web site yesterday as a participant.

The summit’s agenda lists five panel discussions on topics such as “Washington’s Perspective of Broadcast Programming” and “Industry Solutions for Addressing Responsible Programming.”

Also, Edward O. Fritts, the association’s president and chief executive officer, will conduct a one-on-one interview Michael K. Powell, the Federal Communications Commission chairman. Other speakers and panelists will include FCC commissioners Michael J. Copps and Kevin J. Martin and Alex Wallu, president of ABC.

“It seems so silly to me that they won’t open this up to reporters. People in the media aren’t going to say anything off the record, whether reporters are in the room or not,” said Mrs. Matthews, a WJLA-TV (Channel 7) stalwart.

The association is the broadcasting industry’s largest trade group. Its spokesman, Dennis Wharton, could not be reached yesterday, but according to an association press release, the summit will be closed to reporters “in order to encourage open and candid dialogue.”

It is unclear why the association sent out a press release on the summit if reporters aren’t welcome.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit journalism advocacy group, said she was unaware of the summit. Since the association is a private group, it is probably legally permitted to close the meeting to the press, she said.

Ms. Dalglish praised Mr. Peterson and Mrs. Matthews for skipping the forum. “If Gordon Peterson smells a rat, then something probably isn’t right,” she said.

WJLA picks up Kimmel

Our long local nightmare is over: WJLA will air “Jimmy Kimmel Live” weekdays at 12:05 a.m., beginning April 12. The station, because of a scheduling conflict, has declined to carry the talk show since its January 2003 debut. Mr. Kimmel will visit the D.C. area April 5 to promote its local debut.

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

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