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Miami animal sex and the CBS 'Early Show'

ShelleyrossOh, what a delightful local-girl-makes-good story. Shelley Ross, who got her big break in journalism by writing a story on promiscuous animals at Key Biscayne's Crandon Park zoo for the Miami Herald, was named senior executive producer of CBS' The Early Show Monday. Not that this means you should expect to see two hours each morning of Julie Chen interviewing cute little baby elephants.

"What makes a good morning show is content," says Ross, a 1974 graduate of the University of Miami. ‘‘Post-9/11, people want to wake up and hear the breadth of news headlines. Subliminally, they want to know, did a plane crash into a building overnight? Are we still safe? Is there a hurricane or a blizzard, and where is it heading? . . . They want the irresistible news story of the day."

Ross knows a thing or two about what morning-TV viewers want, having lifted ABC's Good Morning
America
from third place in the ratings into a tooth-and-fang fight with NBC's Today Show during her tenure at GMA from 1999 to 2004. Her deadly enemy in those days was Today's co-anchor Katie
Couric, who now turns into an instant ally in the fight to lift The Early Show from the bottom of the ratings heap.

"I spent five and a half years competing with the giantness of Katie Couric," says Ross. "And I am very happy to finally be on the same team. It's very comforting -- she is quite a journalistic force to be reckoned with." She hopes Couric will be a regular contributor to The Early Show.

Of course, I know that what you really want to hear about is those oversexed animals in Crandon Park. Ross, then a college-kiddo working at the Herald part time, was sent out to do a little what-you-can-do-this-weekend feature. She came back with a story about a baby boom at the Crandon Park zoo.

"But the photos were so cute that they gave the story the top two-thirds of the section front," Ross recalls. ‘‘It pushed the entertainment editor's exclusive interview with Federico Fellini down to
the bottom of the page." She's still so proud all these years later that I didn't have the heart to tell her Crandon Park closed its zoo in 1981 and people have to go all the way to Metrozoo in south Miami-Dade to see promiscuous animals.

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