Stations Explain Policy on Simpson Coverage

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While KTLA-TV Channel 5 devoted two days to gavel-to-gavel coverage of the explosive pretrial hearing on domestic violence in the O.J. Simpson murder case, executives for other local television stations on Thursday said they felt they used good judgment by providing only hourly updates on the proceedings.

Even though some of those stations had covered other, less compelling hearings in the case extensively, officials indicated that they did not feel the domestic violence proceedings warranted wall-to-wall coverage, despite the graphic and provocative descriptions of the rocky marriage of Simpson and his slain wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

"I don't know, maybe we're being conservative," said KCBS-TV Channel 2 News Director Larry Perret. "At any moment, we can go on the air, and we're not afraid to go live. But right now, we think it's very tedious."

KCAL-TV Channel 9 spokesperson Stacy Okonowski said, "If something extraordinary happens, we will break in. But we're a lot more experienced than we were in the beginning. When this first hit, it was so explosive that everyone covered it. But now we have to take another look at what is the best way to serve the viewers."

Perret, Okonowski and other station officials added that they felt that extensive coverage of the hearing during regular newscasts would benefit viewers more than the preemption of daytime programming.

But KTLA acting News Director Craig Hume said he believed viewers would have particular interest in the domestic violence hearing, and had no hesitation in deciding to cover it gavel-to-gavel.

"Some of the evidentiary hearings were of great interest, especially this one on domestic discord that deals with key issues for the outcome of the trial," he said. "Viewers have called to say they like our coverage."

Or most of it, anyway.

Hume said that much of the raw language during the hearing was broadcast uncensored by KTLA, and some viewers did call to complain about that. He said the station did not have a sound delay on the proceedings to delete the obscenities before they went over the air, and that he was considering utilizing such a delay in the future.

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