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Ch.2, Ch.4 have a dicey food fight

By Alan Pergament

If you're going out to a local eatery this weekend, you might first check out Channel 4's website.

You can watch the "Dicey Dining" series reported by Luke Moretti and check out if the restaurant you plan on eating at has been guilty of any health code violations.

The series was in keeping with the local news stations' mission to scare the heck out of viewers during the November sweeps by presenting stories that are cautionary tales and can be considered a public service.

"Dicey Dining" -- which noted that Erie County is the only county in New York State not to make this information available online -- was food for thought and somewhat of a ratings grabber for Channel 4. It also got the endorsement of 103.3 personality Tom Ragan.

I know that because Channel 4 ran Moretti's interview with Ragan on one night of the series, a bit of laughable self-congratulation. It also had Diana Fairbanks conduct a self-serving interview with Rose Ciotta, who produced the investigative series. There is speculation that Ciotta may not be able to go on-camera by herself because of union regulations. 

The station also trumpeted the number of website hits the series prompted from viewers. I'm told that the website had 100,000 unique users on the first day of the series, which is about twice as normal.

Channel 4 promoted the three-part series extensively before it ran, which led to a dicey decision by rival Channel 2 to fast track a similar story reported by Michael Wooten to run an hour before Channel 4's series premiered on Monday.

Wooten's story was considerably less thorough than Channel 4's, which made Channel 2's reasoning for running it transparent: It wanted viewers to think Channel 4's investigation was no big deal.

I tried to ask Channel 2 News Director Jeff Woodard about Channel 2's report, but have yet to get a return call or email. I wanted to ask him about a claim that a Channel 4 producer made on a social network that Channel 2's information was old in its report.

It certainly appeared to be old information, which wouldn't have made any restaurant on it too happy.

Of course, many restaurant owners couldn't be happy about the reports on either station, especially if the violations were cleaned up.

In any event, I hope the "dicey" reports didn't scare you away from enjoying a good restaurant meal this weekend.

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Television | TV news
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