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Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera (Click to Enlarge)

Sure, I like a good fight, but when I’m ready for one, I look for the Smackdown channel. A shouting match isn’t exactly a fight, particularly when it looks as rehearsed as a ‘Boogeyman’ vs. ‘Undertaker’ bout. The precipitant behind these two ‘newsheads,’ is that neither one wil stop blabbing long enough to figure out exactly what it is they are supposed to be blabbing about. Geraldo leads off with thoughts about a drunk driver and O’Reilly deciphers the story as an illegal immigration cue. And, whenever one of their ‘debates’ occurs, be assured you will see it over and over until it’s time for the next one. I’m convinced the network execs are thouroughly confused when it comes to what we want to see and hear, and when it’s time (it’s time) for Bill and Geraldo to go, ABC just released the perfect replacement. How great is it that an anchor sleeps through segments we don’t want to see, or decides quite rightly to show up twenty minutes after the news has started realizing nobody is watching anyhow? Please consider my new screensaver; Steve Bartlestein, ‘snewsman’ extraordinaire:

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Steve Bartelstein has run out of second chances at WABC/Ch. 7.

The anchor, who has messed up several times on the job only to get another shot, was fired after sleeping through a newsbreak he was to anchor last Thursday morning on the horrific Bronx house fire. He was in his Ch. 7 office at the time.

“He is no longer with the station, and no longer with ‘Eyewitness News,'” a station spokesman said yesterday.

It was a stunning move, considering that Bartelstein has been a major player on the station’s top-rated early-morning newscast alongside Lori Stokes and weathercaster Bill Evans.

Joe Torres was in the seat yesterday, and the station is expected to rotate others on its anchor staff in the slot.

News director Kenny Plotnik told staffers of the change yesterday in a morning meeting. He also said there would be a thorough search for a replacement.

Plotnik referred calls to a station spokesman. Bartelstein couldn’t be reached for comment.

One indiscretion on Bartelstein’s part might have been overlooked, but there were others. In November, he was suspended for several days after showing up for work 20 minutes after the morning news began.

A year before that, Bartelstein was sidelined for two weeks after showing up late for work and for missing a newsbreak, reportedly so that he could meet Samuel L. Jackson, who was appearing on “Live With Regis & Kelly.”

And there was an ugly sexual-harassment suit that was withdrawn.

Despite the issues, management gave Bartelstein a new contract last June that spelled out the consequences if he slipped up again.

Station insiders said Bartelstein’s latest goof put Plotnik and general manager Dave Davis in a tough spot. Giving him another chance would have made it look like there was a double standard at the station.

Still, the firing is troubling for many at Ch. 7 – one labeled it a “bombshell” – because outside of a proclivity for missing deadlines, Bartelstein was generally well liked.

Moreover, insiders agree that on the air, Stokes, Bartelstein and Evans had great chemistry.

It is that chemistry, their ability to juggle seriousness and banter each day, that has made the show the most-watched local program in the morning.

Said one insider: “It’s not going to be the same without him.”

“EVERYBODY IS UP TO SOMETHING” sm

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