Some random thoughts (and yes, I do have an occasional thought, difficult though that may be to believe):
*For whatever it's worth, KUTV was the first local TV news station on the air Friday morning to announce that convicted murderer Arthur Gary Bishop's execution had taken place as scheduled at the Utah State Prison. News anchor Randall Carlisle made the announcement just minutes after Bishop was officially declared dead, after which he cut to Deborah Lindner's interview with an anti-death penalty activist who was holding vigil outside the prison.KSL and KTVX soon joined KUTV on the air, with Karen Carns holding down Ch. 4's anchor spot while colleague Phil Riesen was in the prison witnessing his second consecutive Utah execution. KSL went straight to Dave Schmertz at the prison.
Both KSL and KTVX went off the air quickly, promising additional information later in the day, while KUTV went with a first on-last off approach. Ch. 2 reporter Vaughn Roche had some nice spontaneous moments reporting from the prison. "Bishop didn't want anyone to fight for his life," he said, "but he did want to fight for his soul." But Roche struck out when he tried to explain LDS beliefs of life after death - something he admitted he didn't know much about. Seems to me a reporter in Utah would know better than to try to bluff his way through Mormon theology.
All in all, Utah TV coverage of the Bishop execution seemed to me to be far more restrained and responsible than the media circus that attended the Pierre Dale Selby execution last year. At least, it was if you don't count Riesen's melodramatic overkill - if you'll pardon the expression - on the first-person account angle. Doing it once last year was enough, Phil. Give it a rest.
*Having seen last night's first installment of KUTV's Project 2000 documentary series, Utah: What's It Worth? (6:30 p.m., Ch. 2), I'm beginning to think someone out at Ch. 2 actually likes Utah. Believe it or not, they even had some nice things to say about the state's pioneer heritage.
But the cynic in me is waiting for the station's traditional "look what the Mormon Church hath wrought" shoe to drop in succeeding episodes. For example, tonight's special has a segment about Utah's image "problem," and Thursday night's episode will examine "the role of the LDS Church in economic development" in its summary of "problems and potential solutions."
That aside, the KUTV series looks well-produced and interesting. And Friday night's live round-table discussion about Utah's economic future with the three major gubernatorial candidates has real newsmaking potential.
*Speaking of KUTV (and we've been doing a lot of that today, haven't we?), the station just inked a million dollar pact with the U. of U. giving the station exclusive rights to Runnin' Utes athletics for the next three years.
"This agreement continues a relationship we started with the university in the early 1970s," said KUTV general manager Al Seethaler. "It not only makes good business sense for us, it also fits well with our continuing commitment to serve the community."
Utah athletic director Chris Hill said he was excited about the increased exposure the contract will give his teams. But university vice president Ted Capener is equally pleased with the million dollars-plus KUTV is willing to pay for the rights.
"At a time when budgets for higher education in the state are increasingly limited," Capener said, "this support for our athletic programs from the private sector is extremely important."
All of which is terrific for U. athletes and fans. But non-sports fans better brace themselves. The only way KUTV is going to get that kind of money back is to air a few more Utah games than they have in the past. Add to those games the station's existing contract with the Western Athletic Conference, and it looks like we're going to see even more programming interruptions in the KUTV schedule than usual.
*I don't know about you, but I'm willing to give Fox's Late Show (weeknights at 11 p.m., Ch. 13) another try after hearing how host Ross Shafer handled outspoken guest Wally George during a recent taping session.
Seems George, a controversial talk show host himself who has a reputation for kicking guests who disagree with him off his program, started making rude comments about actress (and former Playboy Playmate of the Year) Shannon Tweed, who was also a guest on the "Late Show."
"Why is Shannon Tweed here?" he wondered loudly. "She's only been (playboy chief Hugh) Hefner's bed partner for 5 1/2 years. That's her claim to fame!"
Then George turned on the "Late Show" studio audience. "Hollywood used to be the glamour capital of the world," he bellowed. "Now it's the sleaze capital full of bimbos, pimps, pushers and prostitutes. These people in the audience probably roam Hollywood Boulevard looking for . . . "
At that point Shafer had had enough. Having warned George earlier to get himself under control, he cut off his guest abruptly, saying, "Oh, no. I'm not going to have you insult our audience." He ordered an impromptu commercial break, during which time he told George to leave the studio. At first George refused, but two burly studio guards quickly persuaded him to go.
I admire Shafer for giving George the heave-ho. In an era when the media seem to revel in controversy and the entertainment medium in general seems focused on forever pushing on the boundaries of good taste, it's refreshing to hear about somehow who has the courage to say, "Enough! You can say what you want on your show, but on my show you're going to behave yourself!"
And for the first time in a long time, I'll be tuning in to see this guy Shafer in action.