TV news on the big screen

Documentary: A Maryland Film Festival offering chronicles a night in the life of a WJZ newscast

Radio and Television

April 26, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

It's a little out of date, technologically -- things move fast in the TV news business -- and not all the people featured in it are around anymore. But anyone interested in how a local newscast comes together should visit this weekend's Maryland Film Festival at the Charles Theatre.

In "Behind the Scenes at the Local News," which is being shown at 10: 30 a.m. Sunday, the folks at WJZ, Channel 13, put together the 11 p.m. newscast for April 29, 1992. The film starts off with reporter Melissa Sander assembling the pieces for a segment on the proposed closing of a community rec center.

Then, major national news hits -- a verdict is handed down in the Rodney King police beating case -- and everybody at the station scrambles to include coverage of the verdict and the rioting that resulted and to gauge local reaction to the events in Los Angeles.

Finally, the film takes viewers inside the control booth at the station, as director Guy Raymond ensures that the pieces come together for a smooth broadcast.

"You see the relentless pressure these people deal with, day in and day out," says "Behind the Scenes" director Rob Goald, who put together the film to use as a teaching tool in his classes at American University. "And they deal with it graciously. They're well-suited for that type of pressure."

But "Behind the Scenes of the Local News" does more than document how a TV newscast is made; it also offers another look at Al Sanders, the immensely popular WJZ anchor who died in June 1995. In the film, he and Denise Koch share the anchor desk.

Goald, who now teaches in the Baltimore County school system and will soon move to Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, spent a year and a half wrangling permission to film this night in the life of a Baltimore newscast. The results had been available for purchase as both a video and accompanying book but now are no longer distributed. Looking for a new audience, Goald decided to try the festival circuit.

`Wallace' at Charles

Another television-related festival feature: Friday at 10: 15 a.m., "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire," the exemplary biography of Wallace that aired on PBS last weekend, will be screened at the Charles, followed by a panel discussion with directors Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch and Levi Watkins, Associate Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Professor of Cardiac Surgery. Watkins -- the first African-American to achieve those positions at Hopkins -- grew up in Alabama listening to the preaching of Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr.

New looks at WMAR, WBAL

Change seems to be in the air on Baltimore TV this week. Tomorrow, a new look for news broadcasts debuts on WMAR, Channel 2. Details are a closely kept-secret. Also tomorrow, a redesigned news set will debut at WBAL, Channel 11.

Officials at WJZ, Channel 13, and the Sinclair Broadcasting stations (WBFF, Channel 45, and WNUV, Channel 54), say they're happy with the look of their newscasts just as they are.

Who wants to be monitored?

Interested in spending the summer inside a house with 29 cameras and 54 microphones monitoring your every move?

If that idea floats your boat, then you sound like just the person to be one of 10 strangers stuck inside such a house. You'll have no access to the outside world, and your lives will be broadcast every weeknight as part of CBS's up-coming series, "Big Brother."

Applications are available through WJZ; for more information, telephone 410-578-7570. The application deadline is Friday.

MPT pledge results

Maryland Public Television's March pledge drive was its second-most successful, raising more than $917,000 for the station -- even though that total is down about 5 percent from last year. The 1999 drive raised $962,000.

Documentaries proved the big draw this go-round. A four-part look at West Virginia's Blenko Handcraft plants (where glass is hand-blown) brought in more than $203,000, and a series of documentaries on American women, in celebration of Women's History Month, brought in $67,566.

TV's top shows

Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A.C. Nielsen Co. figures:

Rating

1 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Tues. ABC 17.0

2 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Thurs. ABC 16.8

3 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Sun. ABC 16.7

4 The Practice ABC 11.7

5 Everybody Loves Raymond CBS 11.3

6 NYPD Blue ABC 10.4

7 60 Minutes CBS 10.3 8 ER NBC 10.1

8 (tie) 20/20 Downtown ABC 10.1

10 Becker NBC 9.9

10 (tie) Dharma & Greg ABC 9.9

10 (tie) Law & Order NBC 9.9

10 (tie) Touched by an Angel CBS 9.9

14 Friends NBC 9.8

14 Judging Amy CBS 9.8

16 Dateline Monday NBC 9.1

17 20/20 Wednesday ABC 8.9

17 (tie) Dateline Wednesday NBC 8.9

19 Ally McBeal Fox 8.7

19 (tie) Frasier NBC 8.7

19 (tie) Twenty One NBC 8.7

22 Just Shoot Me NBC 8.6

22 (tie) Third Watch NBC 8.6

24 Will & Grace NBC 8.5

25 60 Minutes II CBS 8.4

25 (tie) Daddio NBC 8.4

25 (tie) King of Queens CBS 8.4

28 Diagnosis Murder CBS 8.3

29 20/20 Friday ABC 7.9

29 (tie) Dateline Fridays NBC 7.9

29 (tie) Ladies Man CBS 7.9

32 Drew Carey Show ABC 7.7

33 CBS Wednesday Movie: The Mirror Has Two Faces CBS 7.6

33 (tie) Spin City ABC 7.6

33 (tie) The West Wing NBC 7.6

The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.

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