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WTSP, WFTS lead the way in TV coverage

By ERIC DEGGANS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


If you feel like you're drowning in Super Bowl news, perhaps it's because the local media are drowning in it, too.

On TV, it's obvious most area outlets have pulled out the stops for expanded coverage, with two stations -- CBS station WTSP-Ch. 10 and ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28 -- anchoring all their newscasts this week from special sets developed just for the Super Bowl.

But the weather and passing crowds have blunted the impact of both efforts -- bringing high marks for ambition but mixed results for viewers.

WTSP has built a specialized set inside the NFL Experience mini-theme park -- a noble experiment, with a back window looking out onto crowds at the attraction and high-tech fiber optic connections to the station's St. Petersburg studios.

Still, background noise has proven a serious problem. On Friday, passing bystanders waved and shouted so much, anchors Reginald Roundtree and Sue Zelenko had to don bulky headsets with microphones to be heard clearly. Passing jets flying overhead only added to the disruption.

At WFTS, anchors this week have been perched on a balcony overlooking Raymond James Stadium, which sits just across the street from their Himes Avenue studios. But it's tough to see the stadium during nighttime broadcasts, making you wonder why they just don't go inside once the sun sets.

Though WFTS gets kudos for presenting the most sports information during its specials, sitting across the street from the stadium hasn't really brought more access to Super Bowl news than any other station. And anchors there have also been stuck wearing bulky headsets that aren't the most telegenic contraptions.

The weather hasn't helped, bringing a week of temperatures below 40 degrees in the evenings -- forcing anchors at both stations to bundle up in coats, gloves and scarves.

All this effort may also be lost on viewers, who were mostly split down the middle in an online poll conducted by local cable news channel Bay News 9 on whether local media have gone overboard in reporting Super Bowl news (tellingly, only 7 percent said they wanted more reportage).

Perhaps, when it comes to Super Bowl coverage, less really is more.

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