KERA ’Rent-a-Reporter’ Show Going Nightly

Ever since Jim Lehrer left Channel 13’s once-popular “Newsroom” program to head the Public Broadcasting Service’s Washington bureau, the Dallas station has been struggling to keep an evening news program alive. The last attempt flickered off the air last fall, to be replaced by a once-a-week news analysis show, “This Week.” Under producer Tom Grimes, “This Week” has gained a 3 percent share of the audience – whopping ratings by KERA standards, and strong enough to encourage the station to try another nightly format.

Starting October 2, KERA will present a five-night-a-week version of “This Week,” the show that Dallas journalists call “rent-a-reporter” because the staff is composed mainly of Dallas Morning News reporters who work for a $100-a-night talent fee. The new program will be a $350,000-a-year regurgi-tation of what’s covered in the daily papers. Producer Grimes plans to fly in Fort Worth Star Telegram Washington correspondent Bill Choyke once a week to give a Capital report, which will cost the station $12,000 a year in air fare.

Because the Dallas Times Herald’s ethics code bars its reporters from appearing on the show, the staff of the show will come from the News and the Star-Telegram. One reporter who won’t be seen on it is Channel 13 veteran Dave McNeely, who was dumped recently by station vice president Lee Clark after a long-running battle for power. McNeely’s weekly show, “Texas Politics,” is a casualty of the station’s . latest reshuffling.

McNeely was one of the last remaining employees hired by former Public Affairs Director Bill Porter-field, who was fired last October. Clark’s ascent has been bad for McNeely, but good for Grimes, whom she hired from Channel 5 more than two years ago.

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