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Local stations fine-tune the news

Now that the new TV season is off and running (off and limping?), what better time to switch our attention to the ever-escalating Portland news wars? While prime-time series come and go, news, sports, weather and anchor hair are forever in place.

• 'The Jeff and Julie Show'

Former KATU (2) anchor Julie Emry made her debut last week on KOIN (6), working the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows after spending the last 3 1/2 years being a mom. She's hardly aged a day, but it's going to take some time to regain her comfort level with Jeff Gianola. Last week, there were some of those deer-in-the-headlights moments during unscripted glitches.

Still, this should be a strong team for KOIN: Emry and Gianola had unwavering chemistry during the glory days at KATU Ñ the station ruled the ratings through most of the '90s. And it was a good move on KOIN's part to keep promoting Mike Donahue even though this Channel 6 fixture is no longer part of the anchor team.

The Emry-Gianola combo can only help, but will it be enough to knock KGW (8) from its ratings throne? I'm guessing it won't happen soon, as long as Channel 8 doesn't get complacent.

• 'The Dr. Phil Factor'

Oprah's favorite pop psychologist has made the switch easily from being a Tuesday guest Ñ Oprah's ratings always skyrocketed when Dr. Phil was on Ñ to being host of his own 3 p.m. show on KOIN. The good doctor wins this time period big-time over his soap opera competition.

Because the program is produced by Oprah's production company, there's a clause in the syndication contract that says a station cannot air 'Dr. Phil' opposite 'Oprah.' Too bad for KOIN, because if Dr. Phil were allowed to go head-to-head with Oprah at 4 p.m., he'd provide a solid lead-in audience for KOIN's 5 p.m. news.

As it is, KOIN is running the syrupy and low-rated 'Life Moments' at 4 p.m. But if that show doesn't see better ratings soon, KOIN could bring back 'Maury' from its late-night graveyard and put Connie Chung's hubby back in his old slot.

• 'Leave It to Lars'

You love him. You hate him. And KATU figures you gotta have him. KXL (750 AM) talk-show host Lars Larson has begun doing Ñ gasp! Ñ commentary for Channel 2. Larson's 'Contradictions and Common Sense' airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday during KATU's 5:30 p.m. news.

As I pontificated in a recent column, no Portland station has employed a full-time commentator or analyst in years. Larson will keep his KXL gig, but it's gratifying to see a station rise to the challenge. My sense is that under the leadership of news director Mike Rausch, KATU will continue to show the aggressiveness it displayed while reporting on the Ashley Pond-Miranda Gaddis tragedy.

• 'The Ratings Scramble'

While KGW still leads the pack in the Nielsens, No. 2-ranked KOIN and No. 3-ranked KATU have shown some strength in just the past couple of weeks. So has 'Good Day Oregon' and the 10 p.m. news on Portland's newest Fox affiliate, KPTV (12).

As affiliate swaps go, the KPTV-KPDX switcheroo has apparently been accepted by viewers. Initially, when KPTV's 10 p.m. news was moved from its east-side studio to the digital palace in Beaverton, embarrassing technical errors abounded. Still, there's no doubt that KPTV's news has been Foxified, complete with faster pacing and stories that only 'Temptation Island' fans would love.

Pete Schulberg is the 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. .