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TheBuzz

BY ERIKA ENGLE

Wednesday, November 20, 2002



Media promised
better news


The horns adorning media watchdogs' perception of Rick Blangiardi may have made way for the beginnings of a halo yesterday. At least a little.

Blangiardi told the Honolulu Community-Media Council and the Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter that he is committed to beefing up, not paring down, the news operations of KHON-TV and KGMB-TV.

Blangiardi is the Hawaii market senior vice president for Emmis Communications Corp., which owns both stations under continued waivers of federal media ownership regulations -- an arrangement to which the media organizations object.

He was not trained as a journalist, Blangiardi said, "but I have gained respect for what TV news means to a community." It also means something to a station's bottom line, since local news shows are the marquee product for advertising sales.

"TV news has radically declined" over the years, he said, and "does not come close to serving its people."

KGMB in particular had been left to "languish in its limitations" and KHON's No. 1 status is based on "vapors" of previous successes, he said.

Blangiardi told KHON anchor Joe Moore, who he's known for 35 years, "If you want the next seven years to look like the last seven, I'll find a way to buy you out of your contract."

He knows he's stirred up the marketplace.

It was speculated that Blangiardi would consolidate the newsrooms. The stations share some news footage but write stories separately. Also, a KHON sports reporter and anchor has appeared on KGMB for a live sports broadcast.

One employee is in charge of programming for both stations; Blangiardi says it is an administrative position for oversight of the stations' compliance with affiliate agreements.

It was speculated that Blangiardi would name one news director for both stations. Next week Blangiardi plans to name a successor to Jim McCoy, who resigned from KHON in September. Bob Loy remains news director at KGMB.

Blangiardi has committed more money for both stations' news budgets for the coming fiscal year.

"It's not about saving resources, it's about committing resources," Blangiardi said.

His remarks followed opening statements by Richard Miller, professor emeritus at the UH law school and former media council chairman.

The council supports diversity of editorial voice, he said, and pointed out that under the code of federal regulations, the duopoly is prohibited, because both stations are rated among the top four in the market.

On those grounds the council has filed its objection to the duopoly with the FCC.

Media council Chairwoman Moya Gray believes Blangiardi may have swayed some opinion his way.

"Mr. Blangiardi certainly presented a compelling business case for improving the news product in this town and to the extent that he is able to do so I'm sure members of the council support him in his efforts. The town and the state can certainly stand an improvement of all news products," she said.

She believes some pointed questions reflected fear that "despite what he said, Emmis will move in such a fashion to create the 'big box' approach to news, and I think that's a valid concern."

Blangiardi "carries upon his shoulders the huge task of ensuring a diverse news product without consuming the entire market," Gray said.

The Society of Professional Journalists also maintains that separate ownership of the two stations would be preferable.

Hawaii chapter President Stirling Morita said the question is whether Emmis should be allowed to own both stations. The stations' stories on Saturday night's UH football game were written differently but included identical video and post-game quotes, he said. Morita is also an editor at the Star-Bulletin.

Media ownership regulations are undergoing a wide-ranging review at the FCC, with public comment due by Jan. 2.





Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached
at: eengle@starbulletin.com




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