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Published: Monday, 10/27/2003

It's `sweeps' time for TV stations

November is many things to many people.

Thanksgiving. The first taste of “winter” weather. The start of the holiday shopping season. Ohio State vs. Michigan.

For those who work in television news, however, it's sweaty-palm time. As ratings periods go, only May is considered more important than November.

This year, Nielsen Media Research's “November sweeps” begin in October. The four-week ratings period runs Thursday through Nov. 26.

Although November is the last of four ratings periods in a calendar year (the others are in February, May, and July), it is the first of the 2003-04 television season. It's the first opportunity for Toledo viewers -- those with Nielsen diaries, anyway -- to weigh in on the new season.

Lead-in network programs can impact -- either positively or negatively -- the ratings of late-night newscasts.

As a Fox affiliate, WUPW-TV, Channel 36, has a 10 p.m. newscast. When asked to assess the upcoming ratings period, news director Jose Suarez made reference to the link between network shows and newscasts.

“This is a huge book for us,” he said. “We have high hopes for our new network lead-in shows like The Next Joe Millionaire, The O.C., and returning shows like Bernie Mac and Boston Public.”

November is typically a tough month for WUPW's newscast because it goes up against first-run programming on the other network affiliates -- WTOL-TV, Channel 11 (CBS); WTVG-TV, Channel 13 (ABC); and WNWO-TV, Channel 24 (NBC).

In some markets, “sweeps” pieces on local newscasts can rival The Jerry Springer Show for outrageousness. Toledo, by comparison, is relatively conservative.

Here's what to expect:

  • WTOL: Jim Taylor looks at the issue of elderly drivers; Melissa Voetsch will do a series on genetic testing; and Terry Thill reports on obstacles involved in getting rid of deserted homes. “Toledo viewers have a lot of choices for local news,” said news director C.J. Beutien. “We strive to hit on the issues that interest them the most.”

  • WTVG: Jason Knowles, whose “Restaurant Report Card” is a weekly staple, works a shift at a restaurant in an attempt to gain a different perspective of inspections by the health department. Additionally, “we are working on several investigations into potential local government waste of taxpayer dollars,” news director Brian Trauring said.

  • WNWO: Richard Sharp takes a look at the challenges of being a 911 operator; Tom Bosco will have a series of reports titled “You Paid for It,” which, according to news director Lou Hebert, will focus on “the startling abuse of public tax dollars and wasteful spending by local leaders and governmental agencies.” Hebert added: “November will reflect an even stronger and more aggressive news commitment from NBC 24 than ever before.”

  • WUPW: Laura Emerson will begin an ongoing series titled “Escaping Debt,” Karl Rundgren will report on credit card fraud, and Autumn Ziemba will look at how sex crimes are investigated.



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