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Newscasts clear decks for O.J. coverage

Swarm coverage — you know it by its classier nom de guerre, "team coverage" — swooped down all over O.J. last weekend.

Even if last Friday’s verdict of guilty was amplified into GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!, the expanded newscasts, pre-emptions (nighty-night, "Nightline"), sidelined commercials and clear-the-tracks coverage was justified for news originating here and heading for international headlines. But beyond the initial wave, the story rippled through the weekend before being bumped as lead story Monday. Following are random thoughts on the follow-up:

Best On-Air Presence: KLAS-TV, Channel 8’s Travell Eiland, whose clear explanations, minus the fake urgency TV reporters often adopt, enhanced stories on a bail bondsman associated with the case and reactions to the verdict.

Most Prone to Hyperbole: KTNV-TV, Channel 13’s Heather Klein, exclaiming the defense was "screaming" about jury bias, and KVVU-TV, Channel 5’s Bob DeNinnis describing Simpson’s face as "shocked," when sad resignation was obvious.

Best Beyond-the-Headline Digging: Channel 8 reporting on the dismissal of the lone African-American juror, courtroom footage combining with fresh interviews.

Best Analysis: Channel 5’s Bob Massi who, unlike the brief, taped sound-bite analysis elsewhere, spoke live with legalese-free language of how much prison time Simpson could get to anchor Lorraine Blanco (who, even during deadly serious stories, curls her upper lip into an expression that’s part-smile, part-smirk, part-cover-girl come-on — not that I’m complaining).

Best Coverage That Maintained Balance and Perspective: KVBC-TV, Channel 3, with anchors Gerard Ramalho and Maria Silva and a team amounting to reporter Hetty Chang. The tone was low-key and informational without inflated excitement or self-importance.

Best Course Correction: Channel 13 anchor Steve Ryan, who altered his initial characterization of a brief statement by the family of Nicole Brown Simpson from the flippant "(they) aren’t getting too worked up" to the more respectful "aren’t saying much publicly" later on. And for avoiding inflammatory language referring to the victims in the 1995 case, using "killed," rather than "murdered." …

Best Juxtaposition: Channel 8, following up a complaint by C.J. Stewart attorney C. Brent Bryson over an all-white jury with an African-American’s reaction that "a jury of your peers doesn’t mean everyone has to be the same color." …

Best Anchoring Add-Ons: Channel 8’s Chris Saldana, explaining there’s a difference between "a jury of your peers" and "a jury representative of the community," and recapping defense attorney Yale Galanter’s comments when audio failed on the taped report, rather than simply apologizing for it.

Best Ed Sullivan Impression: Fox-5’s Bob DeNinnis, whose arm-crossing, chest-hugging report had us hoping he’d hand off coverage to correspondent Topo Gigio.

Contact Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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