KURTIS CUTS TO INTERACTIVE WORLD

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Shortly after he steps away from one camera lens in Chicago, veteran newsman Bill Kurtis is going to get wired.

Six-year-old Kurtis Productions will develop original content for VITEC, the location-based entertainment center opening late this summer in Chicago.

Mr. Kurtis, who spent nearly 20 years in the anchor seat at CBS station WBBM-TV, is relinquishing his duties for the 10 p.m. newscast by the end of the month. "My stepping down from the 10 o'clock news directly relates to my wanting to have time to focus on Kurtis Productions," he said. "The No. 1 demand in the information age will be for content. Be it via phone, cable, direct broadcast, CD-ROM, online, Internet, etc., the new technology simply provides more outlets for us to accurately tell documentary stories."

Kurtis Productions will develop VITEC's first feature, a look at the 1960s and the decade's impact on American culture. Kurtis Productions is working with Big Hand Productions-a Dallas-based interactive production company that has created programs for Time Warner, General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac and Nintendo of America.

Mr. Kurtis also plans to launch a World Wide Web site showcasing his production company's work for "The New Explorers," which airs on PBS, and "American Justice" and "Investigative Reports," both airing on cable's Arts & Entertainment Network.

"If you set out on a course to go into communications today, the last place you'll wind up is the broadcast station," Mr. Kurtis said. "I hate to use the word dinosaur, but there's a whole new world out there, and every day is like the first day in the information age."

Not only does he want to focus on providing content, but he understands the necessity of integrating advertising into editorial projects.

"Everyone can't be magnanimous. In reality, advertising pays the bills," he said. "The trend seems to show advertisers wanting to select the programming, and once they have their product, they can choose the distributor and outlets and put it together like each program is its own industry ....

"The eternal struggle is finding where the newsman ends and where the advertiser picks up."

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