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WCCO-TV FINDS ITS PERFECT COUPLE: Vascellaro, Santaniello Are Reportedly the First Married Anchor Team in Twin Cities.

June 17, 2006

By Amy Carlson Gustafson, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Jun. 17–It’s been nearly seven years since TV personalities Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello said “I do.” Starting June 29, they’ll take their relationship in a new direction when the pair co-anchor the 6 p.m. weekday newscast for WCCO-TV, Channel 4.

“I think that if we can live together and raise three kids together, we can do this,” Vascellaro said. The duo’s children are Sam, 5, and 3-year-old twins Joe and Francesca.

For years, Vascellaro, 43, and Santaniello, 41, have been questioned about the possibility of co-anchoring a newscast together. When Vascellaro couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract with KARE-TV, Channel 11, last December, speculation grew about a possible Vascellaro-Santaniello pairing. Santaniello co-anchors WCCO’s 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Now, six months later, Vascellaro and Santaniello will be the first husband-and-wife anchor team in the Twin Cities market, according to WCCO.

“We’re grateful to be given this opportunity,” Santaniello said. “We just know each other so well, and we both have the same work ethic and the same sense of humor. I think it will be a good thing.”

To make room for Vascellaro, the station’s longtime anchor Don Shelby will step down from his 6 p.m. anchor duties. He will continue to co-anchor the 10 p.m. newscast.

“I have long thought of having Frank come on board to work with his wife Amelia in this market, if and when the opportunity presented itself,” Shelby said in news release. “I not only support this move, I welcome Frank whole heartily.”

“Don was magnificent throughout this whole thing,” Vascellaro said. “To a certain degree, Don’s role in this is what made things come together. He created the opportunity to allow this husband and wife anchor team to happen. What he did is unprecedented in this business.”

WCCO General Manager Ed Piette said the chance to pair Santaniello and Vascellaro was an opportunity “we could not pass up.”

Vascellaro says he’s “extremely excited” about his new job and believes people in the Twin Cities have been ready to see a Vascellaro-Santaniello anchor team “for years.” He also assures viewers they won’t have to worry about the duo getting too cutesy on screen.

What he’s not quite sure about, though, is whether his wife will turn out to be a perfect co-worker or how they will deal with those not-so-perfect days that all married couples have.

“That really is the troubling question,” Vascellaro said. “This will be interesting. It’s obviously new territory for Amelia and I to venture into. There are days when husbands and wives are arguing about things, and you’re happy to get away from your spouse for a while. But for better or worse, we’re stuck in this thing together.”

It goes without saying that the folks at WCCO are hoping their 6 p.m. anchor team will be a ratings winner. After all, the station has been steadily improving its numbers and, in May, managed to top the Twin Cities market in the Nielsen household numbers. But the station lags behind KARE, which still rules the 25-54 demographic — the age group most coveted by advertisers — with its 10 p.m. newscast.

Even though KARE is the No. 1 station at 10 p.m. with the 25-54 set, its numbers have slipped 19 percent compared with data from May 2005.

On the other hand, WCCO’s 7.1 rating reflects an 18 percent increase since last year and shows that the station continues to threaten KARE’s top standing.

At third-ranked KMSP-TV, Channel 9 (9 p.m. newscast) and fourth-ranked KSTP-TV, Channel 5, numbers also have risen in the 25-54 demographic. Compared to last year, KMSP had a 19 percent ratings increase, followed by KSTP’s 16 percent ratings jump.

Aron Kahn contributed to this report. Amy Carlson Gustafson can be reached at agustafson@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5561.

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Copyright (c) 2006, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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