- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

Gannett Co. Inc. yesterday turned to a man it had fired from a previous job to manage the newsroom of its flagship TV station in the Washington area, WUSA (Channel 9), which lost some of its biggest stars last year.

Randal Stanley was named news director during an afternoon meeting at the CBS affiliate’s Broadcast House studios in Northwest. He has managed the newsroom’s daily operations since August, when the previous news director, David Roberts, was fired.

Mr. Stanley said his top goal will be to build upon the rise in viewership of WUSA’s 11 p.m. newscast, which has closed the gap with the longtime champ, NBC station WRC-TV (Channel 4), since the fall.

“The challenge at 11 p.m. is not Channel 4 or Channel 7,” he said. “The biggest challenge is the off switch.”

Mr. Stanley said boosting WUSA’s late-news viewership will help it increase ratings in other time periods, which have suffered in recent months.

His appointment comes as Broadcast House settles down after a season of turmoil.

Anchor Gordon Peterson, a 35-year WUSA veteran, joined rival ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) last month after Channel 9 proposed a dramatic cut in his pay and a demotion.

Since July, the station has fired anchor Gurvir Dhindsa, sportscaster Frank Herzog and morning weathercaster Hillary Howard.

The newcomers at Channel 9 include anchors Tracey Neale and Todd McDermott, sportscaster Brett Haber and morning weathercaster Kim Martucci, who debuted last week.

“We’re making decisions every day for the long term. This is a long-term plan to create long-term loyal viewers,” Mr. Stanley said.

WUSA has no immediate plans for further changes to its on-air team, said Darryll J. Green, president and general manager.

Mr. Stanley ran the newsroom at a Gannett station in Buffalo, N.Y., from 1999 to 2002, when Mr. Green was that station’s general manager. Mr. Stanley became news chief at a Gannett station in Cleveland, where he was fired in 2003.

He said he felt he made some improvements to the Cleveland station’s ratings and the quality of its newscasts during his tenure. Yesterday he described his dismissal there as the “point where that station and I parted ways.”

Mr. Stanley returned to Gannett in April when he joined WUSA as executive producer.

“I’m very honored to be back with Gannett in a news director position. This job is a very important one and I’m going to give my very best shot,” he said.

Gannett, based in McLean, owns and operates 21 TV stations and publishes 101 daily newspapers.

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