WDVM-TV's Mike Buchanan admits he "got a little hot under the collar" when he tuned in the Ken Beatrice "Sports Call" program on WMAL-AM (630) early last Friday morning and heard "callers lambasting the media for reporting the drug angle" in the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias. In fact, he was hot enough to show up on WMAL's Jenifer Street doorstep at 12:15 a.m. with fellow Channel 9 crime reporter Dave Statter so that the pair could air their side.
Like many Washington reporters, Buchanan and Statter had spent all day Thursday reporting the story. They began at 7:30 a.m. when Statter received a call from a fire department source that "Len Bias is dead." (In fact, Bias was not pronounced dead for another hour and 20 minutes.) Later, just after noon, Buchanan received a tip that doctors suspected that cocaine was involved.
While other stations also had reason to believe that drugs were a part of Bias' death, they withheld that information until after Statter broke it on Channel 9's 5 p.m. Eyewitness News. Throughout the evening, WDVM used the drug angle as a teaser for the 11 p.m. news.
The television reports of drug involvement brought a barrage of calls to Beatrice's three-hour, late-night radio show from fans who felt that the allegations were in poor taste and insensitive to the player's family and friends.
"Generally, we require at least two sources. But, obviously, with something of this magnitude, you want to be triple sure that it's true," Buchanan said in a recap of his original public explanation on "Sports Call." By 4:40 p.m. Thursday, the veteran reporter had three solid sources -- "one with the cops, one over at Leland Memorial Hospital and one in the medical examiner's office in Baltimore. We weren't dealing with rumors. We were dealing with real sources. There was also evidence that the room had been 'sanitized,' in the words of Prince George's County State's Attorney Arthur M. Marshall Jr. , and that was evidence of a cover-up. I don't think that's fair to Lenny Bias, or his family, or his fans."
"As I've said a thousand times on the show, I don't like rumors or innuendo," Beatrice said this week. "But if I had their sources, I might have done the same thing." Up by the Bootstraps
It's not often that a major market radio station hires a disc jockey without previous on-air experience but WMZQ-AM (1390) this week said it is willing to take a chance on "Jeannie Jackson." Six weeks ago, Jackson -- who as promotions director for sister-station WMZQ-FM (98.7) used her real name, Deborah White -- agreed to sit in the afternoon drive chair temporarily while the country station searched for a replacement announcer through the rather unconventional method of on-air auditions.
Jackson began working at the Viacom International-owned FM station three years ago as a receptionist and later worked as a secretary before being named promotions director. For the past 1 1/2 months she has worn two hats, spending mornings at the FM studios near Chevy Chase Circle setting up station promotions before driving to the tiny 5,000-watt AM station in Arlington to share her afternoons with a constant stream of auditioners.
But after a while, station management noticed that her untrained on-air character had attracted an audience. "It was sort of like the movie 'Airplane,' where they got a pilot from the back of the plane in an emergency," said AM Program Director Katy Daley on Monday. "Well, she's landed the plane, and we've given her a pilot's license."
Jackson's "license," worth about $27,000 annually, could increase to nearly $30,000 when the local union completes contract negotiations with area stations in the next few weeks. "It's a nice little increase for me all right," admits the 32-year-old mother of two teen-age boys. "My kids are going crazy. They don't call me Mom anymore. They call me Jeannie. It's very strange."
Daley said she received nearly 100 inquiries about on-air auditions but picked those with the best tapes to try out on the airwaves. "Talent came out of the woodwork," she says, "but so did the nontalent. The talented ones got on the air, and we did find some people who'll be taking part-time positions at the FM."
Among the on-air tryouts were one jock who was fired from WAVA-FM (105.1) the night before; Chris Conners, who lost his midday job when KIX Country became "Classic Rock" in January; and Metro Traffic Control's morning traffic reporter, Jerry Edwards, who auditioned as "Jay Dallas." End Notes
Some 22 miles of nylon tape, 3,000 feet of steel cable and more than $75,000 have been invested in WBMW-FM's (106.7) latest drive for the listener's ear as the adult contemporary station cosponsors the unveiling of the world's largest birthday card to the Statue of Liberty. Sections of the card will be on display at the Washington Convention Center today and tomorrow so well-wishers can sign their names. A $1 donation is requested and will benefit local charities. The huge card, cosponsored by Perpetual American Bank, will measure 135 feet by 95 feet when fully assembled and attached to the Washington Building, 1440 New York Ave. NW, July 2-6 . . .