Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WKNO Adding More Local Weekday Programs

Posted By on Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 2:01 PM

WKNO/Channel 10, the local public television station, is going to look more local in September, with some familiar names and faces from Memphis media.

The package of five half-hour programs is called 'KNO Tonite and will air Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m. starting September 6th. Two of the shows are new ones, with two more new shows on business and weekend happenings scheduled to begin in January.

The September lineup: Mondays will be "Southern Routes" hosted by Bonnie Kourvelas. She visits offbeat places and people in the Mid-South, including a regular segment, "Ask Vance," with Memphis magazine's Vance Lauderdale. Tuesdays will feature Commercial Appeal sports columnist Geoff Calkins and guests. Wednesday's feature is "A Conversation With" guests including authors Hampton Sides and Rebecca Skloot. Local documentaries will air on Thursdays. Friday's offering is "Behind the Headlines," hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of the Memphis Daily News.

"The goal is to capitalize on the potential of the new WKNO Digital Media Center," said WKNO President and CEO Michael LaBonia. "The focus has not been about getting a new building, rather, it has been to better serve the community. The goal of 'KNO Tonite is to keep local people informed about news, politics, sports, business, arts, culture, and entertainment in the Mid-South."

WKNO joins a crowded field of newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines, websites, and bloggers providing local content and, in some cases, making money off of it. The station aired a local news talk program called "Informed Sources" several years ago, but has not done much since then in news or sports. Part of the obligation of tax-exempt public television stations is providing local programming to supplement what they get from PBS.

The reporters and editors I talked to were generally cautious in their outlook.

Barnes said the program will be "great exposure for us." The Daily News also publishes a weekly edition as well as a website, and has strong local reporters including Bill Dries, Eric Smith, and Andy Meek. Barnes said "Behind the Headlines" is a joint production with WKNO, and will simulate a news meeting in a talking-heads format. Participants will be paid a modest honorarium. The program will be taped on Friday morning.

Television reporters Les Smith of Fox 13 and Janice Broach of WMC-TV Channel 5 said they would probably not participate regularly. Smith and Broach, who get plenty of exposure on their own stations, cited time demands and contract restrictions but said they were interested in the concept. Broach said she was slated to host "Informed Sources" before going to work for WMC.

That could leave WKNO combing the ranks of print reporters — a scary prospect for both viewers and those not accustomed to being in front of a camera for more than a sound bite or two. Add to that, wariness of providing cheap content for free media at a time when the Internet is killing advertising-based print publications while nonprofits can rattle their tin cup for donations and underwriters.

Calkins said his radio partner George Lapides, a former print journalist, told him "he had all sorts of misgivings about doing a whole show on television," but Calkins will try it nevertheless. It will be his responsibility to book guests. He negotiated a fee with WKNO that is somewhere between an honorarium and a salary. He will open with Josh Pastner, and expects to book sports agent Jimmy Sexton and football coach Larry Porter.

"This may last three weeks," said Calkins, who is expanding his reach in print to general interest columns as well as sports. He said the WKNO program will stick to sports.

Russ Abernathy, director of television for WKNO, said "local programming is the heart of what we really are." The new facility near Whitten Road south of Interstate 40 replaces the old studio that was on the University of Memphis South Campus.

"Behind the Headlines will be more akin to "Washington Week in Review," with in-depth discussions and video packages," he said.

The sports program will focus on the business side of sports as opposed to game highlights and jock talk.

The lead-in for both of the new programs is the news with Jim Lehrer.

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