Channel Surfing
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
April 5, 2005

According to the Philadelphia radio message boards, talk show listeners were frustrated by WPHT 1210-AM’s coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II Saturday afternoon.

Local talker Dom Giordano was on the air during his 12-3 p.m. shift when the Pope died at 2:37 p.m. At 3 p.m., instead of sticking with live reaction to the major news event, WPHT ran the pre-recorded “Ron Insana Show” from 3-5 p.m.  Since the show was taped at noon that day, listeners heard talk about the Pope's serious condition, though in actuality the Pope died already.

WPHT 1210-AM program director Grace Blazer did not respond to an email for comment.

As for the local television stations, Pat Ciarrocchi and Walter Hunter are in Vatican City for KYW, Bruce Gordon is representing WTXF, Cathy Gandolfo is the reporter for WPVI, and Terry Ruggles is there for WCAU.

WCAU named veteran reporter Terry Ruggles the co-anchor for the weekday morning news (5-7 a.m.).  Ruggles will replace Steve Levy who plans to retire in June.  The show improved in the ratings during February sweeps with Ruggles working alongside news anchor Dawn Timmeney. 

WCAU’s annual “Fit Fest” returns to the Pennsylvania Convention Center this weekend from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  “Today” show weatherman Al Roker and Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the special guests on Saturday and Houston of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” drops by on Sunday. 

Fans will also have the chance to collect “Fit Fest Trading Cards” featuring station personalities Doug Kammerer, Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, Amy Freeze, Denise Nakano, Monique Braxton, Lauren Cohn, Harry Hairston, Tracy Davidson, Aditi Roy, and Vai Sikahema.  Sounds like I’ll have something to add to my old “Wacky Packages.” 

WPHT 1210-AM traffic reporter Lorraine Ranalli is the co-author of the book “The Adventures of Dayne Traveler.” To get a sneak peak, go to

 “Good Day Philadelphia” host Kerri Lee Halkett is scheduled to return to the show from maternity leave at the end of the month.  Halkett had a son in January.  Co-host Jennaphr Frederick is expecting her first child later in the year.

Mary Stoker Smith is scheduled to begin on the WPHL 10 p.m. news this week.  She replaces Toni Yates, whose contract wasn’t renewed in January.  Yates could apply for the anchor vacancy on CN8 at 10 p.m., since Connie Colla moved to “Your Morning.”  The only problem is that the co-anchor is Yates’ ex-husband, Arthur Fennell. 

CN8’s “Your Morning” and “Bucks” magazine have entered into a partnership where the magazine will provide segments for the show.  Other media partnerships are WCAU and “The Philadelphia Inquirer,” KYW and “Philadelphia” magazine, and Comcast SportsNet and “The Philadelphia Daily News.” 

Anthony Federov survived another trip to the “bottom three” of “American Idol” last week. He’ll be back tonight on Fox at 8 p.m.  Last week, many viewers were wondering about the bizarre behavior of judge Paula Abdul.

Lower Merion native “Mercedes” is one of the three finalists competing to become “The Starlet” on WB at 9 p.m. Though this show bombed in the ratings, I loved it.  Judge Faye Dunaway was a scream. Produced by Upper Darby’s Jamie Kennedy, he is 0-2 this spring with this show and the film flop “Son of the Mask.”  He gets another shot as a producer of the new Fran Drescher sitcom “Living with Fran.”

Germantown Friends’ alum Kristen Welker is the newest reporter for WCAU.  Welker, who graduated from Harvard University, arrives from the ABC affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island.