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Bedian leaves Channel 5.

KSDK (Channel 5) is essentially eliminating its powerhouse community relations department. No longer will it be its own department. It will resurface as a new employee working in the marketing department. That means discharging two full-time people and one part-time person (actually let go in December).

"It was a business decision," said Channel 5 insiders.

But General Manager Lynn Beall says otherwise. She says the change is philosophical. The station will hire a community relations manager to work within the marketing department. Beall says it is a hybrid position that will be dedicated both to the community and strengthening the station's on-the-air marketing direction. "By being part of the marketing department," Beall says, "we will focus on each individual event such as the 'Race To The Cure' and see how we can make it bigger than the year before."

Will this work? Part of what drives the station's ratings is its reputation as a major community player. Its "do-good" programs make a big difference to lots of groups and people in the region.

They may well attract viewers who are loyal to Channel 5 because the station helped them (or their group). It isn't beyond the realm of possibility that if the station isn't careful and the "marketing" part consumes the "good for the community" part, it could cost viewers and, ultimately advertising dollars.

The community relations department has accomplished much for the community including zillions of hours of volunteer time through the Volunteer 5 program worth millions of dollars to not-for-profit groups. Telethons, walk co-sponsorships, talent appearances and other events all made our community better. Even if they try to continue these worthwhile efforts with a single coordinator, there is a chance some will wither at best and die at worst. After all, there is a net loss of one full-time and one part-time staffer.

Lisa Bedian, who ran the department and handled station public relations, lost her job. Whoever picks her up will get quite a talent. Jeanine Meyer, who has worked with Lisa for several years, also got the boot.

Beall acknowledged their talents. "It is nothing to do with Lisa or Jeanine. They have done a good job, but this is more my vision of where it needs to be down the road," Beall explained.

When asked why she wasn't moving Bedian to the new position, she said based on her conversations with Bedian, "I don't believer Lisa is interested."

Bedian acknowledged she probably wouldn't be interested in that type of job.

She said she was looking forward to moving on. In fact, on the same day the news came out, she received several inquiries.

Bedian said she was proud of what she contributed to the community through Channel 5. She pointed to he] starting the Volunteer 5 program and the Friend-to-Friend Breast Cancer project, to name a couple.

Jeff Winget is director of marketing and promotion, and takes over the public-relations function.

The Channel 5 newsroom will fee the loss, said anchor Karen Foss.

"I am really sad about it," Foss said "I feel Lisa did a great job of helping us focus on the community. She and Jeanine were great about coordinating our appearances.

"I do not know how we are going to do without them. Lisa brought focus and organization."

Foss was concerned the station might go back to the way it used to operate on a "catch-as-catch-can basis." Foss said, "I will miss her help and guidance."

Beall said her most important message is the commitment to the community will remain strong. I believe her. The question is, will this new way of doing community relations be able to match up to her promise?

I used to admire Channel 5 for keeping its NBC-related news stories to a minimum. So imagine my disappointment when they ran not the normal one-part cover story but a two-part cover story on the newest NBC game show, "The Weakest Link." Unfortunately for the normally talented Leisa Zigman, she drew the short straw and traveled to the west coast to interview the show's acerbic host Anne Robinson. Part one was so worthless and devoid of real information, I passed on part two.

Hey, Channel 5, give Zigman the more thoughtful and harder news stories and let someone else do the fluff. Oh, and put that fluff somewhere other than the 10 p.m. news when valuable, news time is limited.

Okay, maybe that cover story was a waste of time but Channel 5 is bragging, and rightfully so, that three of the station's cover stories during the May ratings bore results.

On April 27, the station aired a story on how valets at BJC were mistreating vehicles including breaking the speed limit with other people's cars. After the report, BJC made policy changes as a result and reviewed all of the employees.

On April 30, Zigman (in a report more worthy of her time) revealed that pressure-treated lumber used in playground construction has arsenic that can leech into ground water (unless the wood has been sealed). Kids who are playing on these playgrounds are being exposed to higher levels of arsenic. As a result, the St. Louis County Council outlined a plan of action that includes removing public picnic tables with pressure-treated lumber and sealing all public bridges, walkways and decks every two years.

The St. Louis County and Madison County health departments both say they are going to look at resealing playgrounds.

The Fairview Heights community also plans to seal the wood at playgrounds.

The Missouri Health Department issued several recommendations from washing hands to not putting pressure-treated lumber in vegetable gardens.

Both Missouri and Illinois state governments said they are reviewing what else should be done.

On May 17, Deanne Lane reported on danger at a Jefferson County fireworks plant, Pyro Products, Inc. There have been two explosions at the company facility. Her story featured an interview with a former employee who expressed great concerns over safety. As a result of Lane's report, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) is expected to announce a reopening of its investigation of the plant.

The May Neilsen ratings headline is simple: "Little Change."

KTVI (Channel 2) continues its slow push toward higher ratings (except at 5 p.m. where it is basically steady;) KDNL (Channel 30) remains a virtual non-entity in the early local news race (although it has gained a bit at 10 p.m.), and in a year-to-year comparison, Channel 5 has increased its first-place lead over KMOV (Channel 4).

Channel 5's Lynn Beall credits newsroom management for the continuing success. "(News director) Mike Shipley has been outstanding and has put together a great team," Beall said. She also noted News Planning Manager Ava Ehrlich's work in putting together cover stories that bring in viewers.

In the morning news race, the race remains virtually steady. From 6 a.m. until 7 a.m., Channel 5 is still ahead with a 9.2 rating and a 36 share (see below for an explanation of rating and share). Channel 4 garnered a 3.7 rating and a 15 share and Channel 2 came in with a 3.1 rating and a 12 share.

At noon, Channel 4 is making a race of it, trailing Channel 5 by only 7/10ths of a rating point. In May 2000, the difference was 1.8 rating points.

Although it doesn't face other news programs, Channel 5's "Show Me St. Louis" is the ratings winner over all other programming at 3 p.m.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the news race is at 9 p.m. Channel 2's entry into the 9 p.m. time slot has had a detrimental impact on KPLR (Channel 11). In May 2000, Channel 2 had a slight lead over Channel 11. A year later, Channel 11 has lost a great deal of ground and trails Channel 2 by quite a bit.

The February 2001 ratings are included to show the difference in February viewing patterns as opposed to May. In February, the sun goes down early and the weather keeps us inside. By May, the later sunsets and warmer weather tend to reduce television viewing.

A rating point in St. Louis equals about 11,200 homes. A share point means that one of every 100 homes with their television on at a particular time is watching a specific station. A 27 share for station "X" would mean that 27 of every 100 homes with their televisions on are watching station "X." (Actually, the electronic measurement system lets Nielsen know the TV is on but not necessarily if people are actually watching).

Tripp Frohlichstein owns Media Masters and consults with business, government and non-profit organizations. He will not comment on any television coverage if it involves his clients.
 Rating/Share Rating/Share Rating/Share
5 p.m. May 2000 Feb. 2001 May 2001
Channel 2 7.0/15 7.3/15 6.8/15
Channel 4 9.9/21 9.5/19 9.4/21
Channel 5 10.1/22 12.26 11.3/25
Channel 30 2.7/6 (Frasier) 1.2/2 (news) 1.2/3 (news)
6 p.m.
Channel 2 4.2/8 5.7/10 4.9/10
Channel 4 10.3/20/ 10.9/20 9.0/18
Channel 5 12.3/24 14.2/25 12.4/26
Channel 30 2.9/6 (Simpsons) 2.9/5 (Frasier) 2.6/5 (Frasier)
9 p.m.
Channel 2 5.7/9 8.4/12 7.3/10.7
Channel 11 5/8 4.5/7.5 3.5/5
10 p.m.
Channel 2 5.1/8 5.2/8 5.5/9 (Seinfeld)
Channel 4 13.6/21 15.2/24 14.0/22
Channel 5 17.2/27 19.0/30 18.3/29
Channel 11 9.8/15 (various) 8/13 (Friends) 6.6/10 (Friends)
Channel 30 3.8/6 3.8/6 4.8/8
COPYRIGHT 2001 SJR St. Louis Journalism Review
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Frohlichstein, Tripp
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:1662
Previous Article:Drink up.
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