Brian, Katie and Charlie may be the super-duper stars of Republican National Convention coverage, but they won't dedicate much airtime to telling Minnesotans how to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic when the presidential motorcade rolls through.

That's why local TV will focus on the issues -- and hassles -- that may only matter to those living full-time in the Twin Cities.

"It's not just a political story for us," said Mike Caputo, assistant news director at WCCO, Channel 4. "We're doing stories on how all this will affect the community."

While the market's top four news teams face similar challenges, each will tackle them in ways that reflect their current economic status and relationship with the networks. WCCO, which has struggled financially this past year with headline-making layoffs, has not invested in a convention center skybox, since the price tag for such a luxury is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its anchor team will stay put in downtown Minneapolis.

"It was a budget decision," Caputo said. "This year has been tougher than others and it's expensive to be down there."

Fox affiliate KMSP, Channel 9, the Twin Cities station that dedicates the most time to local news during the week, has seen an upturn in its ratings. It will provide more than six hours of live coverage from Xcel Energy Center and is giving up a heavy presence at the State Fair this week to be properly prepared.

"We were told three years ago by our bosses to go big on this election and cover it the way it deserves to be covered," said KMSP news director Bill Dallman. "We're thrilled we have the support to do it."

Here's a rundown of how each of the local Big 4 will tackle the big story on their home court:

KARE, Ch. 11

The NBC affiliate doesn't have to pony up for a skybox. The network is making one of its sets available around the clock, a gift that will be used for all of KARE's major broadcasts. The station also will work closely with MSNBC, popping by the cable news channel's St. Paul headquarters (in Rice Park) throughout the week and getting guest commentary from anchor Keith Olbermann and political director Chuck Todd. KARE also has a longstanding bureau near Xcel Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota, which will be used for everything from signal transmission to hospitality for special visitors.

KSTP, Ch. 5

Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns the ABC affiliate, is getting into the convention mood early by co-sponsoring Saturday night's big media party at the Guthrie and the Mill City Museum. Then it's down to serious work. All anchors and reporters will work 12-hour shifts during the convention, largely because they can't predict how difficult it will be to get in and out of Xcel Center, where they will report live throughout the afternoon and evening from a skybox.

"We found out from Boston [site of the 2004 Democratic convention] that they had problems getting people in and out of the center," said news director Lindsay Radford.

In addition to its regular newscasts, the station will provide webcasts at 1 and 7 p.m. at KSTP.com, as well as a Web-only wrapup show at 10:30 p.m. hosted by anchor Brad Sattin. Network stars such as Robin Roberts, Charlie Gibson and Cynthia McFadden are expected to chime in as their schedule allows.

KMSP, Ch. 9

News director Bill Dallman is certain his team will stop by the enormous Fox News tent in a convention-center parking lot, but he'll have his hands full in the KMSP skybox, from which all coverage, including four hours in the morning and a bonus newscast at 6 p.m., will emanate. Guests on a daily basis will include Star Tribune gossip columnist C.J., some University of Minnesota bloggers and Fox's Greta Van Susteren. Perhaps the most tantalizing presence will be a wireless camera that investigative reporter Tom Lyden will use while working the convention floor.

WCCO, Ch. 4

The CBS affiliate may not be investing as much as its competitors are, but it has a gold mine in Pat Kessler, who's covered Minnesota politics for more than 30 years. It also has the popular segment "Reality Check," which will focus on politics for the next two weeks. About a dozen WCCO staffers will work the streets outside the convention center, doing everything from celebrity-spotting to looking into security matters. Jeff Greenfield, Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer are among the network stars expected to contribute their thoughts.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431