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Recession makes for a leaner sweeps

Time now to take the quickening pulse of local TV news. We're about to enter the crucial February sweeps, when splashy station promos and 'investigative reports' come out of mothballs to attract more eyes to the evening news.

Helicopter hiatus: What a difference a year Ñ and a recession Ñ makes. News choppers were conspicuous by their absence this past Sunday during the four-alarm warehouse fire in Southeast Portland. The next night, only KATU (2)'s Jet Ranger 2 buzzed the rubble during dinner-hour newscasts. In years past, not covering a blaze of this magnitude with dueling choppers would have been considered nothing short of heresy.

Slimmer newsroom budgets mean fewer miles flown by the fuel- (and dollar-) guzzling choppers. But that didn't stop KGW (8) from going live from the skies high above the route during Tuesday night's special 'torch cam' coverage of the Olympic torch relay.

Oh, yes É one more sign of these consolidation times: KGW aired two separate live segments Ñ on its own station and on KPXG (22), the Pax affiliate with which it has an operating agreement.

Anchor's away: It's sort of ironic that the KGW anchor best equipped to handle live coverage of events such as the Olympic torch wasn't doing any of the anchoring: Instead, Tracy Barry was a torchbearer, running the route earlier in the day out in Tigard.

The night before, some producer must have been yelling into Joe Donlon's earpiece Ñ or else the KGW anchor was busy practicing his next script. Right after Kelly Love told us that 9,000 people were expected at Pioneer Courthouse Square for the torch ceremony, Donlon asked Love how many people were expected to show up. The answer was still 9,000.

Later, after weatherman Matt Zaffino said he'd be running with the torch at 6:24, Donlon asked what time he'd be running with the torch. Answer: 6:24.

Quotes of the week: From KOIN (6) anchor Kelley Day, which pretty much sums up how TV news reacts when the first snowflake falls or is about to fall: 'David Okarski from Sylvan Hill, where it is not snowing as we speak.'

And later on KGW, Zaffino proclaimed, 'We'll have to watch this.'

The stations sure did. But compared to past snow days, none of the stations went absolutely nuts covering the story at the expense of other news.

Fresh faces: No, it's not your imagination. A whole slew of young reporters has gravitated into the Portland market in the last seven or eight months.

They've all got three things in common: They're comfortable with the camera and smooth on live shots Ñ and come with a leaner salary than the many newsroom veterans who've been let go in the past year.

Pete Schulberg is host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .