The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Thursday, September 21, 1995           TAG: 9509210058
TYPE: Column 
SOURCE: Larry Bonko 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   85 lines


IT WAS SUCH A big deal that anchorman Tom Randles came in off his vacation to be part of it.

Earlier this week, CBS affiliate WTKR began producing a 10 p.m. weeknight newscast for United Paramount Network affiliate WGNT, the station of Xena, the warrior princess.

Thirty minutes after co-anchor LeAnne Rains, meteorologist Duane Harding and sports reporter Jim Hale signed off on WGNT, they were before the cameras again to do WTKR's 11 p.m. newscast, including that breathless ``Eleven at Eleven'' segment.

(Randles resumed his vacation immediately after the launch of ``TV3 News at 10 on UPN 27'' was completed at 10:30 on Monday night. When he returns from vacation, he and Rains will do WTKR's news at 6 and 11 p.m., plus the half hour on WGNT at 10.)

How different are these newscasts - the 10 p.m. telecast on WGNT and the 11 p.m. show on WTKR?

The look is the same for both broadcasts because both involve the same people on camera and both originate from WTKR's soon-to-be-scrapped orangy set in downtown Norfolk.

On Channel 27 at 10, Randles and Rains led off the premiere newscast with a story about dead fish washing ashore in Ocean View. Later came stories about a nice brick home on the Peninsula that York County wants to give away, a Norfolk woman fretting over relatives in the path of a hurricane, and Mary Kay Mallonee's report from Virginia Beach about the leftovers from hurricane Felix: hard-to-remove tape stuck to the inside of windows.

For Channel 3's newscast at 11, Rains led with the story of ``a Norfolk woman who spent an unbearable night waiting for news of loved ones caught in the path of Hurricane Marilyn.'' I think she meant to say an unbearably tense night for Angie Pascua, who eventually did hear from her sister in St. Thomas.

At 11 p.m., Rains included the story of the house in York County. (It's free, OK. The hitch is you have to pick it up and haul it away from where it stands.)

The newscasts at 10 and 11 are essentially the same.

Hale at 10 was more of a free spirit than at 11, calling it a ``bummer'' when the Washington Redskins lost to Denver in a game of what he called ``horrendous'' officiating.

Hale the homer.

Where do Hale, Bruce Rader of WAVY, Scott Cash of WVEC and the other TV sports guys (no sports women as yet) get the notion that everyone here lives and dies for the Redskins? You'll never convince me that this is Redskins' territory. That's up the road 200 miles.

I dare say there are more fans of the Dallas Cowboys hereabouts.

Anyway, WTKR news director Barbara L. Hamm said she intends to make the 10 p.m. newscast on WGNT as different from the 11 p.m. broadcast on WTKR as time allows. There is one producer for the 10 p.m. show (Karen Rezendes) and another for the 11, former sports reporter Ross MacCallum.

With only 30 minutes to spare between broadcasts, it takes what Hamm describes as ``a lot of coordination'' to get the 11 p.m. newscast up and running on WTKR so quickly. The ratings say that WGNT's audience is younger than WTKR's viewers, so Hamm will shape the 10 p.m. newscast to reflect that.

Will it be news lite?

With more to do in the WTKR newsroom these days - Hamm's troops are producing something like 28 hours of live TV every week - the news director is looking to hire more people. The station needs another reporter, a weekend sports person, assignment editor and producer.

If WTKR's bosses knew they were starting a 10 p.m. newscast, and knew they would need at least four new people, why didn't they renew the contract of Carol Novotny Horton? She is as smooth a professional as there is in this market.

Why was she let go at a time the station's talent is stretched thin? Because, said Hamm, Horton is an anchor-weather reporter, and there is no shortage of bodies in that department.

I'll wager that Horton would have loved to fill the reporter vacancy. Please call, Carol, and let me know when you get work.

WTKR's newscast at 10 on WGNT is welcome because this is a TV market in which many rise early and go to work way before 9 a.m. Now you can get your dose of Duane and the weather an hour earlier than before, and be off to bed.

Great. But it's the same ol' Duane. I was hoping for something new at 10 - a fresh, fast-paced newscast from Fox affiliate WTVZ that would knock our socks off. That's how they do it at other Fox stations. by CNB