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Viewers Get a Vote In What News Show Covers

July 24, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ Viewers of Cable News Network’s ″Newsnight″ experimented with an interactive format early today, using their telephones to select stories on the controversial anti-depression drug Prozac and an Alabama marijuana eradication program.

About 1,400 callers to a 900 number shelled out 75 cents to chose their favorite story from six choices. Besides the two winners, these included the latest testimony in Washington Mayor Marion Barry’s drug trial, a sailing program designed to keep native American teens off drugs, summer jobs and saving the spotted owl.

″This was the shakedown cruise,″ ″Newsnight″ Executive Producer Joshua Loory said after the show. ″I think there were some minor production problems but all in all, it went pretty well. I’m tickled right now.″

Near the beginning of the hour-long show, which begins at midnight, viewers were presented with a menu of the six stories and the 900 number. The calls were tabulated by computer and the two most popular stories were fit into the newscast.

The rest of the show was taken up with other news stories chosen by the editors.

″I was very pleased with it,″ Loory said. ″We got 1,400 calls which is very, very nice for a five-minute window.″

The story on Prozac received 35 percent of the vote while the drug eradication program received 26 percent.

Loory said the show’s producers are content to leave viewer selection at only two stories.

″We’re still very much in control of what’s going into the show,″ he said.

Although the network has no current plans to use the poll as a long-term guide, ″it’ll probably be pretty interesting to look at the choices down the road and see what the viewers are selecting,″ Loory said. ″I can tell you, it’s not going to change the way CNN covers the news.″

07-24-90 1035EDT

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