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TV's helping hand keeps reaching the nation's jobless

Those television ''jobathons'' to help the unemployed find work continue to underscore the community-service potential of American broadcasting. Take the case of Bill Griesmer, general manager of Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Pittsburgh's Allegheny Center, who recently hired several workers through KDKA-TV. ''I was very impressed that the station took valuable time to show concern about Pittsburgh's high unemployment rate,'' he says. ''I felt if they did that, I should be able to come up with several listings for them. So I pinpointed several full-time and part-time jobs. Those who we hired are doing very well. KDKA is perceived in Pittsburgh as a real community-involved station. Their jobs programs proves that.''

Television jobathons have become an effective counter to the persistence of unemployment. But the actual number of people who have found jobs through the TV service is not entirely clear, in part because of a question of semantics. The difference between references to a ''job opportunity'' and a ''job,'' as used in these projects, seems to be the difference between a simple ''listing'' and an actual ''hiring.'' Thus the number of job openings at least spotlighted seems to be definite, but actual hirings are less precisely counted.

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According to Edith Westermann, director of special projects of the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives, some 50 American television stations in all parts of the country have ''generated'' an estimated 50,000 jobs. Stations have accomplished this by airing encounters between job hunters and employers. They have developed a format for what amounts to presenting on-the-air resumes. And they put job counselors on the air to help those searching for work.

(The White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives is under the direction of James K. Coyne, a special assistant to the President.)

Many times the White House has provided input with phone calls and taped messages from President Reagan for local stations, according to Ms. Westermann.

She says, ''These jobathons are the most creative examples of what a local TV station can accomplish in the area of economic stimulus. In addition, they have the effect of uniting communities in a common goal.''

The broadcasting enterprise on job placement started July 9, 1982, when station KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, initiated the first television jobathon. About 300 full- and part-time job opportunities suddenly came to light. The show was so successful that KGAN did it again last week, and, according to a station spokesman, it appears to have been even more successful than the first one.

In addition, Taft Broadcasting's TV stations scattered around the country (Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Birmingham, Ala.; Washington; Kansas City, Mo.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Columbus, Ohio) held jobathons that reportedly resulted in employment for 2,000 people.

WPIX in New York City held its jobathon April 16 and it is reported to have placed 1,600 people in jobs. Since then, subsequent on-air job-hunting efforts have reportedly resulted in 5,000 more job opportunities.

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Pittsburgh's KDKA - a pioneer in American radio broadcasting - now has become one of the nation's most active TV stations in the job-hunting field. In addition to its jobathons, KDKA offers off-camera job seminars where employment specialists advise the jobless on how to conduct interviews and write resumes. The station also offers a free job-hunting booklet, and its food drives have collected about 350,000 pounds of food, feeding more than 70,000 unemployed people.

One of the most effective job-hunting programs at KDKA, however, has been the on-air resume program. The station tapes a 15-second spot of an unemployed worker presenting a personal resume. The station airs two of the spots every weeknight on its local news show. According to a KDKA spokesman, the station has generated at least 1,000 job opportunities, which have resulted in at least 100 placements since the project began.

Director Westermann says the jobathon program is only one aspect of President Reagan's policy of encouraging more private-sector initiatives in all walks of life. ''We stand ready to assist in addressing the problems of unemployment as well as encouraging private sector solutions to many of the social and economic problems of our nation's communities,'' she says.

At a White House reception, the President said of the jobathon effort: ''It really works. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, KGAN-TV began the idea by preempting its local and network prime-time programming last summer. Before the show was over and the jobathon ended, some 319 jobs were netted.

''Sally Dale, a housekeeper-baby sitter who had been out of work for months, received a job offer within 60 seconds of her TV interview,'' he said.

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