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Published: Monday, 10/25/2004

Channel 24 picks hot topic for first debate

The last televised debate of the local election season will be a first for WNWO-TV, Channel 24.

To its credit, the NBC affiliate picked arguably the most contentious local issue on the ballot a measure to amend Toledo s smoking ban as the topic for the first exclusive formal debate in the station s 38-year history.

Earlier this month, WTVG-TV, Channel 13, in partnership with The Blade, and WTOL-TV, Channel 11, each aired exclusive debates that featured candidates running for office. WNWO s offering, in contrast, will be on a specific issue.

Tomorrow s 30-minute tussle, to be held at the University of Toledo, will be carried live beginning at 7 p.m.

It should be a spirited debate, WNWO news director Lou Hebert said. It s a topic that generates a lot of emotion. Everyone has an opinion on the smoking ban.

The format will be similar to candidate debates. Each side will have two panelists, and they will answer questions posed by the moderators, WNWO news anchors Jim Blue and Jennifer Stacy.

Hebert gave executive producer Julie Roy the task of coordinating the debate. While she expects those in attendance to be revved up, she believes the no-applause rule will help keep things running smoothly.

Once the debate starts, it will be the responsibility of Blue and Stacy to maintain order and make sure each side is treated fairly. Blue says he will be intent on keeping people focused on the issues.

Stacy said her goal is to make sure everyone gets their say.

Blue said some dubious numbers have been injected into the public debate over the smoking ban and, through his questioning of the panelists, he hopes to bring clarity to some of the figures.

STRAIGHT TO THE TOP: Going from an on-air position in Toledo to an on-air position in a Top 5 market is rare. Before this month, it had been done only twice in recent years: In 1998, WTVG sports anchor Jeff Blanzy went to Market No. 3 (Chicago s WLS); in 2002, WTVG news reporter Sarah Bloomquist went to Market No. 4 (Philadelphia s WPVI).

Geneen Anderson is making the biggest jump of all to Market No. 1.

The former WNWO weekend weathercaster/medical reporter has been hired by New York City s WABC. She will be the weather anchor for weekend morning newscasts and report on environmental issues weekdays, according to WABC news director Kenny Plotnik. Her first day will be Nov. 8. Plotnik said it is hoped that she ll make her on-air debut on Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, Anderson s position at WNWO will be filled on an interim basis by Michael Schlessinger, who previously worked at WSYM in Lansing.

P.M. TICKER: News crawls at the bottom of the TV screen, which became an around-the-clock fixture on CNN and Fox News Channel after 9/11, had been limited locally to morning newscasts until last week. On Tuesday, WNWO became the first local station to make the news ticker a regular part of an afternoon/evening newscast, running it from 5 to 6:30 p.m. For now, the 11 p.m. newscast remains ticker-free.

RADIO RATINGS: The results of Arbitron s 12-week summer survey are expected to arrive at local radio stations this week.

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