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UPN38 plans chatty a.m. news

Jumping into an already crowded market for early-morning ''info-tainment," UPN38 announced yesterday it plans to relaunch its one-hour 7 a.m. newscast on Monday and mold it as a local version of the ''Today" show.

Lounging in leather chairs, cohosts Robin Hamilton and Ted Wayman will put behind them their hard news days as reporters for sister-station CBS4. Starting next week, they will interview local experts about fashion, parenting, gardening, and party planning.

In between feature segments, Hamilton and Wayman will take turns updating viewers with news headlines, weather, and traffic information.

''This is going to be fun television and not your traditional newscast," Wayman says.

Hamilton, who said she has covered countless fires during her four years at CBS4, describes the new show as ''a breath of fresh air . . . There's a market for a different kind of news in the morning."

The makeover at UPN38, or WSBK-TV, comes three months after the station canceled its 10 p.m. newscast due to weak ratings. WSBK also attempted a 7 p.m. newscast in 2001, but that failed as well.

The new program, called ''The Morning Show," will go head to head with the likes of NBC's ''Today" and ABC's ''Good Morning America." What's more, WFXT-TV (Channel 25) has its own non-traditional local news show from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Jim Thistle, director of the broadcast journalism program at Boston University and a former news director at CBS4 precursor WBZ-TV, said UPN38 will have a tough time competing against Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.

''Those shows are getting softer and softer anyway," he says. By 7 a.m., most people have digested their local news and are looking for national news before they walk out the door, he said.

'Eye on Education' returns to Ch. 2

WGBH-TV (Channel 2) is launching its fifth annual ''Eye on Education" programming week Monday.

The campaign highlights the fact that 12 years after the Legislature passed its Education Reform Act, setting higher standards for student achievement and educational funding, many schools in the state still have low achievement levels.

Monday at 7:30 p.m., ''Greater Boston" will examine the Great Schools Campaign, which consists of a group of business leaders, education experts, and community members who are attempting to raise academic standards, boost teacher training, and increase funding for underperforming schools.

On Thursday at 9 p.m., ''Basic Black" will broadcast ''Beyond Black and White: Race in the Boston Public Schools." The one-hour special will bring educators and parents to the WGBH studios to discuss, among other things, the possibility that Boston's schools will become re-segregated due to demographic changes in the city.

A list of programming for the week is available at www.wgbh.org/eyeoneducation.

SUZANNE C. RYAN

Longer 'Staircase' revisits Peterson

Over four weeks, starting at 9 p.m. Monday, the Sundance Channel will air ''The Staircase," filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's revisionist documentary on the Michael Peterson murder trial from 2003.

Peterson, an author and newspaper columnist, was convicted of killing his wife, who was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's home in Durham, N.C.

To be sure, ''The Staircase," which aired in a much shorter version on ABC's ''PrimeTime" last year, has a point of view. In interviews, de Lestrade has said he thought the prosecution had a flimsy case against Peterson.

But, he added, that did not mean he was sure Peterson didn't kill his wife that night in 2001. Nor, despite de Lestrade's unfettered access to the defendant, his children, and legal team, can ''The Staircase" be considered a brief for Peterson's exoneration.

Like all great documentarians, de Lestrade has risen above the mundane concerns of journalism to create an epic narrative. With a novelist's eye toward story, character, and detail, he and producer Denis Poncet have made a film that equals their 2002 documentary, ''Murder on a Sunday Morning," for which they won an Oscar.
KNIGHT RIDDER

Radio highlights

Noon WBNW-AM (1120) -- ''The Brass Ring With Gina Ghioldi." Guests: Nancy Morgan, travel specialist at Katlin Travel Group; Jeremy Jones, general manager of Sandals Whitehouse Resort, Jamaica; Evan Eggers, founder of www.02Cruise.com.

1 p.m. WUMB-FM (91.9) -- ''American Routes." Featuring: Dolly Parton.

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