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July 10, 2006
Next on "Maury"... Wait, it's The News

Fans of Maury Povich’s sleazy talk show - and you know who you are - may have been mourning on Monday, but those of us who are news junkies were cheering.

That's because it was the debut of Channel 13’s hour-long 4 p.m. newscast. (It's the first time any station has dared to air news so early in the evening since Channel 3 tried it at 4:30 p.m. in the 1990s.) Station honchos have chosen not to promote the newscast heavily until September, when they'll have "Dr. Phil" as the lead-in.

The way we see it, any increase of news coverage is a good thing. And the debut broadcast - featuring anchors Tony Lopez and Brandi Hitt - had some glitches and curious story selections. But, hey, it sure beats Maury’s “Who’s your Daddy?” DNA-testing segments.

Some first impressions:
* There were twice as many national and world reports than local stories. Nothing wrong with that. But strangely, not once did the car bombing that killed 10 Shiites in Iraq come up.

* Instead, we got video clips from the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain - a TV news staple.

* Was this a time-filler or what? The news replayed a “Good Day Sacramento” report from a new Universal Studios ride that first aired at 8 a.m. on sister station Channel 31.

* Best story: How a rice company in Roseville is suing Iraq (the provisional government) for $5 million for not paying its bill.

* Strangest story: “Airport Foot Fungus!” How people get ringworm from taking off shoes at the security screening. Rafer Weigel could barely keep a straight face in his live stand-up report from Sac International.

* They are such teases: Every station does it, but the 4 p.m. news was chock-full of them. Sam Shane teased to the 5 o’clock news, and Hitt and Lopez took turns chatting it up with Vanessa Amezquita, who works on the station’s Web site, about what users were clicking on.

* Give us more of Amezquita, please. She had better camera presence than many of the “talent.”

* Speaking of talent, where is Kris Pickel, from Fresno, the anchor who the station had hired to work with Lopez. Word is, it’ll be August before Pickel debuts.

* Doh! Near the end of the newscast, Channel 13 went to a commercial. The screen went black for 10 seconds, but viewers could hear a voice - we think it was Lopez - say, “Ah, I’m roving,” before the last half of the spot was shown.

* One last quibble: There was a lot of background chatter audible throughout the newscast. Quite distracting.

Then again, not as distracting as “Maury.”

-- Sam McManis

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