Now Here's the News

They were still stunned at CBS News on Friday in the wake of the Thursday firing of 74 people . . .

The cuts, which also included the elimination of another 51 unfilled News positions, were part of a company-wide campaign to hold down expenses in the wake of a billion-dollar debt incurred in rebuffing Ted Turner's takeover attempt and the effects of an industry-wide drop in ad revenue projections . . .

(As part of the cutbacks, CBS Inc. is even selling its two company jets and the helicopter) . . .

"There was some scattershot in the way it was handled," one network source told us, regarding the News job cuts, "but if you look closely, it was really aimed at the older crowd" . . .

One round of scattershot that missed target involved six-year CBS veteran Liz Trotta . . .

Trotta had signed a new, four-year contract in April, after she returned from Vietnam, where she had a major role in setting up network coverage of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal . . .

It did not, however, contain the standard cyclical termination clause, which permits either party to a contract to bail out after every 13 weeks, or six months, or whatever . . .

Thus, Trotta was flabbergasted on Thursday when she learned of her abrupt dismissal . . .

And so, we hear, was CBS News management, when it learned later in the day that Trotta's contract had no termination clause, which means the News division, reportedly seeking to cut $6 million from its budget with the job cuts and other measures, probably still owes the correspondent four years of salary, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars . . .

Trotta's agent, Wayne Kabak, has reportedly notified the network that if she is not taken back, the network owes the unpaid salary . . .

Kabak told us Friday that "Liz would be very eager and willing to work for CBS. She's a team player. She's been a happy and productive employe. I've informed CBS of the situation and I'm waiting for them to respond. She's quite prepared to continue working" . . .

Another of Thursday's victims, Washington-based Lark McCarthy, who first made her mark at Channel 7 here, reportedly has already received several inquiries about her availability and has scheduled talks with at least one local affiliate this week . . .

McCarthy, in the opinion of several local news executives, had "grown tremendously" during her stay at CBS News, a stay that included an anchor spot on the late night "Nightwatch" program and frequent prime-time network appearances handling the news briefs . . . She is not expected to be out of work very long . . .

In case you missed it in Friday's early editions, late Thursday CBS News withdrew the name of veteran Mitchell Krause, who had been inadvertently included on the first list of firing victims . . .

In addition, CBS News confirmed that Bob Ferrante, a former executive producer of "CBS Morning News" and "Nightwatch," was also a casualty of the cuts . . . Also in the News

Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, said yesterday that Captain Airwaves' Friday story about a "spinoff" from "The Cosby Show" was a tad (but just tad, mind you) erroneous . . .

True, a series pilot will be made based on a recollection in a recent Newsweek cover story about Bill Cosby, of Bill's real-life sixth-grade teacher, who had been dubious about Bill's attention to study . . .

But, said Tartikoff, it will not be a "spinoff" . . .

"Bill's writing scenes for the pilot this weekend," said Tartikoff. "But we've decided it's unfair to actors to be in a 'spinoff' of Bill's series because that's Bill's turf and that shows up in audience tests. Besides, it doesn't give actors a chance to show their own capacities" . . .

Instead, the pilot will be about two "mature" schoolteachers, best friends, who work in an inner-city school . . .

Said Tartikoff: "One will undoubtedly be someone who could well have been Bill's real teacher, crusty, a drill sergeant type. Bill likes that idea. And maybe, down the road, if we decided to locate the series, if it goes to a series, it would be in New York and conceivably one of Bill's children could be in the same teacher's class. But right now, there's no series 'crossover' planned" . . .

Tartikoff, recalling Airwaves' long, lonely effort to get "The A-Team" on the right track, grammatically, at least, also promised there will be no hyphen in the still-unchosen title for the pilot . . .

We hear that an hour after NBC News learned on Saturday that "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather was already transmitting stories to New York via satellite from the earthquake disaster scene in Mexico City, NBC dispatched "Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw to the beleaguered capital . . .

Unfortunately for NBC, Brokaw did not have immediate access to a satellite when he got there . . .

Peter Jennings left yesterday morning for Mexico City and will anchor "ABC World News Tonight" from there this evening . . . He took a chartered flight from Dallas . . .

Rather, Brokaw and Jennings will all be there to cover First Lady Nancy Reagan's visit there today . . .

Rather yesterday was able to interview Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid as he toured the site of a maternity hospital, where children were still being removed from the wreckage . . .

Also on the evening network shows this week, as the fall prime-time season gets under way, "NBC Nightly News" will devote five nights to segments on black America; "ABC World News Tonight" will have a series on AIDS; and "CBS Evening News" will look at medical malpractice and fraud through Wednesday night . . .

The Minnesota-Chicago NFL special on ABC Thursday night averaged a 15.0 rating and a 24 percent audience in Nielsen's top10 markets . . . That included a 20.2/31 on Channel 7 that night . . .

Speaking of WJLA, after the first four afternoons, its new 4 p.m. entry, "America," had averaged a 5.7 Arbitron rating and an 18 share through Thursday, compared with a 6.3/17 for "Hart to Hart" reruns on WRC and 5.6/17 for "Hour Magazine" on WDVM . . .

The Nielsen meters, which seem to favor WDVM, put "Hour Magazine" first with a 5.9/18, with "America" and "Hart to Hart" tied at 5.5/17 . . .

Ray Cullin, who has been White House producer for the NBC News bureau here, has been named Houston bureau chief, replacing Susan Reed, who moves into satellites for the network . . .

Field producer Russ Moore will replace Cullin at the White House . . .

A former secretary of technical records in the Broadcast Operations and Engineering division of ABC Inc. in Washington has filed a $10 million lawsuit, charging she was unlawfully discharged and racially and sexually discriminated against . . .

Angela Shanks alleges she was fired without notice July 10 by a female supervisor "who has a reputation for being hard on women and blacks," according to Shanks' attorney, Linda Huber . . .

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court here, contends ABC violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex . . .

A spokesman for ABC in New York Friday said the network had yet to see the suit and declined to comment . . .

In July, former ABC employe Cecily Coleman settled a lawsuit against the network, claiming she was sexually harassed by an executive and then fired after she rejected his advances. Coleman reportedly settled for $500,000. The executive she brought suit against had left the network before the suit went to trial . . . And Finally

Sydney H. Eiges, 76, who retired in 1974 as vice president for public information for NBC, died recently in West Palm Beach, Fla., after a long illness . . .

Mr. Eiges, who joined NBC as a staff writer in 1941, was a pioneer in the TV public relations business -- he became vice president for press and public relations at NBC in 1960 -- and was a founder of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences . . .