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Going Postal

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Sorry, dear reader. I've let the mailbox and e-mail bin overflow, so we'll get right to it and answer what's been on your minds lately.

I am so sick of hearing about this Mark Mathis thing. Have people lost their minds around here?

I have to agree with you, but I can't remember more questions about anything media-related than this in the last couple of years. As I said last time around, no matter what the circumstance of the wacko weatherman's 30 days of "time off," it's generated free publicity for Fox 18. We've seen a slew of letters to the editor in local newspapers, and more water cooler yack than anyone could imagine. Bottom line is that this news operation is now being identified and defined somewhat by its non-traditional weatherman. The other interesting thing is many of the folks who've asked me either by e-mail or on the street about Mathis are non-news watchers who say they watch only to see what Mathis will do. Is there nothing else going on, people?

What's up with the Charlotte Observer doing a "Best Of" issue? Are they dissing CL?

Here's a tricky one for the media columnist of this paper, when that paper attempts to steal thunder from this paper's longtime annual feature. Most cities have "Best Of" features in local papers and magazines. It's been done for years, and it's a lucrative sales vehicle for selling ads to "Best Of" winners in later issues. I like letting readers state their opinions through voting about where they shop and eat, and people in the public eye they admire or loathe. That's the stuff that wanker columnists and critics typically do for them, decreeing which eateries are best and movies are the must-sees for the weekend. And maybe you don't have a big preference for which pizzeria is best, but maybe you'll try it out after seeing it in a "Best Of" issue.

Now, with the Observer diluting the genre more, we have four players in the "Best Of" sweepstakes in town. There's room for all, I suppose, but expect ballot-box stuffing by Observer readers, who can send in as many ballots as possible anonymously, unlike CL, who requires names and addresses on ballots to avoid such duplication.

I've got a great reality show idea: what do you think of America's Stupidest People and how would I sell that to a network?

First, get in line. Fox has the lowest common denominator producing minds in television today, and TV folks are very particular about who pitches concepts to them. Plus, that's too similar to the South-bashing CBS is attempting with its Beverly Hillbillies-style reality show.

I'll go you one better. How about we kidnap actresses going to awards shows, lock them in a bunker, and force them to select a dress and do their own hair and makeup without stylists or designers? It might earn it an MA rating, but kidnapping Joan Rivers and forcing her into the bunker sans makeup or jewelry would be riveting. Or maybe she's put together with rivets. I forget.

If war starts, will we be stuck with watching all that coverage all the time? And will it be on the local stations, too?

Since a war with Iraq is actually a significant news story, yes, you'll be inundated with information on all media outlets, at least at the start. If you remember the Gulf War, networks, both broadcast and cable, were wall-to-wall for many days as events warranted it. If all that real-life action bores you, get cable or a satellite dish, and enjoy a reality show, since actual reality seems too much for you. Current events can be interesting, dude!

MAKING WAVES...Diane Tucker is out as general manager at WPEG-WBA-WGIV, with no replacement named by parent company Infinity as this went to press. Terri Avery has been promoted to operations manager for the stations, and Pat Glass is also stepping up to general sales manager for WPEG and WBAV. . .WFAE-FM is bringing more diversity to its mix by adding the Tavis Smiley Show to its weeknight lineup at 8 pm. . .WBT-AM news reporter Adam Thomas has nabbed a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for "best use of natural sound" for his report on last December's ice storm. Snap, crackle, pop. . .Radio Disney AM1480 is looking for local kids aged 8-14 to serve as "KidCasters," reporting on local events and other topics for the kid-niche radio station. Bring your budding babbler to SouthPark Mall Saturday March 29 from 1-4pm. . .Habitat of Charlotte will get some national publicity during its 20th anniversary of building affordable housing in Charlotte. Popular Mechanics is sponsoring and building a house and will feature it in the magazine. The Do It Yourself cable network will also shoot a national program using the Charlotte chapter to show how Habitat volunteers build a typical home.

Stay tuned. . .

Shannon Reichley's media column appears every other week in CL. She's an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail her at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.

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