For thos of you who've long harbored suspicions that television journalists are nothing but a bunch of unfelling, super-ambitious, egocentric jerks, CBS presents "WIOU" - which will do nothing to change those impressions.

Set behind the scenes at a truggling local news operation in a large city, "WIOU" boasts perhaps the most vernal, vicious, back-stabbing, avarious characters ever assembled.These are people possessed by over-weening ambition. They often represent the worst of TV journalism - uncaring, intrusive and not always accurate.

In a deliciously morbid sequence early in Wednesday's premiere (9 p.m., Ch. 5), and anchorman suffers a heart attack during a commercial and an up-and-coming reporter literally wrests the copy from his dying hand.

Not than any of this is an indictment of the program - "WIOU" is one of the better new shows this fall. In the tradition of "St. Elsewhere" and "Hill Street Blues," this hour-long drama is laced with black comedy, and it's very well done.

And, according to the producers - who have spent time working behind the scenes for local newcasts - the portrayal is largely accurate.

"Obiviously, we drew from our own experiences as journalists," said co-creator/executive producer John Eisendrath. "I think that when you fictionalize anything, even if it's drawn primarily from you experience, the characters become a composite of people that we knew and worked with."

Not that they're all bad. There are a few caring individuals here. But ambition is the name of the game. At the anchorman's funeral, his co-workers are discussing business even while acting as pallbearers.

"You've go to admit in this business there's very much of a `here-today-gone-tomarrorw' outlook," said co-creator Kathryn Pratt.

In another outrageous scene, a femal reporter (Helen Shaver) is grabbed underneath the anchor desk by the male anchorman. She finally grabs him back and says "I'll let goe when you do."

Although the scene seems improbable, Shaver said it isn't - she talked with an anchorwoman who experienced the same problem.

"She said, `I brought a baseball bat in on the se. He thought it was a joke, but when we went to commericial, I stood up, I picked up the baseball bat and I said, `Do I have to use this?" Shaver said.

John Shea, who plays the newly hired news director on "WIOU," spent some time with real-life news directors.

"Hanging around these guys, what I find out is that their world is even more insane than ours! -that it's riddled with black comedy," Shea said.

And it's that comedy that makes this show attractive - despite the unattractiveness of some of the characters.

(Editor's note: "WIOU" is scheduled to debut Wednesday, but if the World Series goes to seven games the premiere will be postponed a week.)