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:: Can TV news be saved? BRIAN LOWRY asks the question here:

Beyond their nightly newscasts, the major networks are increasingly dominated by fluff, celebrity and scandal on their ascendant morning shows and crime-saturated newsmagazines. Fox News Channel and MSNBC rely on studio-bound talk formats that call for minimal reporting, while CNN — due in part to its own incompetence — continues to flounder despite a wider web of resources.

In many respects, cable resembles the paper-thin journalism of local news, minus weather and sports scores. As Nichols noted, during dozens of book-related events around the U.S., doubtless over-populated by egghead academic types, “not one person” claimed to be satisfied with their local coverage.

:: It’s that time of year, as pilots head toward the homestretch and untitled projects have to finally settle on a name. MICHAEL SCHNEIDER explores the pros and cons of titles — and how a bad name might hurt marketing efforts and viewer awareness:

Among this year’s crop of still nameless pilots, CBS has its “Criminal Minds” spinoff and an untitled John Wells medical drama; and the CW has its “Untitled Wyoming Project.”

Others may still change: Fox is said to like its comedy “Traffic Light,” but is worried auds will think the dating show is about drug trafficking.

And industry observers are guffawing over the dilemma CBS has with “Shit My Dad Says.” The comedy is based on the popular Twitter feed of the same name.

:: JUSTIN KROLL looks at MTV’s pact with Verizon, and how the recent web series “Valemont” may be a sign of things to come:

As networks look for ways to cut costs associated with pilot development, the “Valemont” model is an instructive lesson. It also reflects the kind of multiplatform programming boom that recently spurred the Producers Guild of America to acknowledge an entirely new category of “transmedia” producers, or those who are responsible for outlining the vision for a project in multiple media.

“The Web and TV already have so much convergence with one another that it only makes sense that development of any kind should be done this way,” says “Valemont” writer Christian Taylor, whose credits include “Lost” and “Six Feet Under.”

:: Change is never easy at the TV Academy, where even small changes are enough to incite riots. JON BURLINGAME writes that the TV Academy is backing off from earlier assertions that it would eliminate the main title theme Emmy next year:

“The fact is, according to Acad music branch governor Mark Watters: “It has become a lost craft in our business. Many TV shows don’t use them and if they do, they’re 15 seconds (or less). The day of the great themes that you and I grew up with is gone.”

Nevertheless, the music branch is now being asked to decide whether to keep the theme category or replace it with a one for documentary scores.

The Acad this week sent out “pro” and “con” documents to the music branch. Ballots are due back May 6.

:: And PETER BART takes on Kitty Kelley’s new Oprah tell-all.

All in the April 26 issue of WEEKLY VARIETY — now on sale. (Or check out our top secret Weekly Variety website here.)

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