- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) has opened a Northern Virginia bureau in McLean, becoming the first local TV broadcaster to plant its flag in the Washington suburbs.
The bureau is based inside the mammoth USA Today headquarters off the Dulles Toll Road. The TV station and the newspaper are both owned by media giant Gannett.
WUSA reporter Peggy Fox and camerman Frank McDermott are the staffers assigned to the bureau. The office is small, but it has the equipment Ms. Fox needs to edit stories and send them electronically to the station's upper Northwest studio.
"Northern Virginia is one of the biggest areas of growth in this region, and the entire political landscape of the state has changed in the last few months. It's important for us to be there covering that," says Dave Roberts, WUSA's news director.
Having Ms. Fox in Northern Virginia has given WUSA an edge, Mr. Roberts says.
This month, Ms. Fox was the only Washington TV reporter to attend Gov. Mark R. Warner's announcement in Richmond that he will resurrect Northern Virginia's sales-tax referendum for transportation.
In March, WUSA was the first station to report Jack Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and 1980s, plans to run for the seat again.
"Being out here really makes a difference when you're covering a breaking story. You can save at least a half hour by not having to fight the traffic to get to the scene," Ms. Fox says.
All the stations in town have reporters assigned to cover the suburbs, but WUSA is the only TV broadcaster with a suburban bureau. Local cable news network NewsChannel 8 is based in Springfield, and has small bureaus in the District, Rockville, Largo and Annapolis.
This summer, ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) will move its entire operation from Van Ness in Northwest to Arlington. The station will merge with NewsChannel 8 and share a high-tech studio in the old USA Today building on Wilson Boulevard.
Mr. Roberts won't say if WUSA is considering other bureaus.
Suburban TV news bureaus are common in other big cities. WCBS-TV (Channel 2) in New York, for example, has Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester County bureaus.
"It's a really smart move. Anything you can do to be closer to the community you cover helps. And there are lots of Nielsen boxes in Northern Virginia, which doesn't hurt," says Carl Gottlieb, deputy director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a group that studies local TV newscasts across the nation.
Ms. Fox has deep Northern Virginia roots. She was raised in Springfield, and both her parents worked in Arlington County. She met her husband, Tom, when they were students at West Springfield High School.
One of Ms. Fox's other classmates was Todd Stottlemyer, managing director of McLean information technology firm McGuireWoods and a former chairman of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
Last week, she hosted the Arlington chamber's annual Valor Awards, which recognized several of the local police, fire and rescue workers who helped rescue Pentagon workers on September 11.
"It's great to be out here full time. Everywhere I go, I run into people I know or people I went to school with," she says.

Live at five
More details are emerging about the afternoon newscast WTTG-TV (Channel 5) plans to begin this fall.
The show is still expected to air weekdays at 5 p.m., but it may begin in late August instead of September, as originally planned.
Newsroom staffers at the Fox affiliate say the show will use the same anchor team as WTTG's high-rated 10 p.m. newscast.
The station is still seeking a co-anchor for Tracey Neale on that late news show. It has given two of its reporters, Laura Evans and Brian Bolter, on-air auditions. Both are considered contenders for the job, as well as morning anchor Michael Gargiulo, who got a two-week tryout in late March.
If WTTG chooses Ms. Evans, it would be the rare broadcaster to use two women as its main news anchors.
WJLA has paired Maureen Bunyan and Kathleen Matthews on its 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts since September, but that arrangement is seen as temporary until the station finds an anchorman to join Miss Bunyan.

What a debacle
Which Ricky made the decision to drop "The Sports Junkies" one of the Channel Surfer's favorite radio shows from national syndication?
The Junkies broadcast weeknights from 7 to 10 p.m. at the studios of WJFK (106.7 FM) in McLean. The show is syndicated nationally by Westwood One, a Viacom subsidiary.
Last week, industry trade publication All Access reported Westwood will stop distributing the Junkies in mid-May. A company spokeswoman declined comment.
Will the program continue as a local show on Viacom-owned WJFK, or will the station drop the Junkies, too? The station's management didn't return several calls last week.
The most recent ratings from Arbitron, from fall 2001, showed WJFK was tied with rock music station WWDC (101.1 FM) for 10th place weeknights from 7 p.m. to midnight. Thirty-seven stations in the Washington area broadcast during that time.
The Junkies John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop and John-Paul Flaim are four childhood friends from Bowie who began a cable access TV show in 1995. The sports-and-entertainment talk show quickly took off, and they eventually moved it to the radio.
The Junkies are known for their wacky lingo, regularly sprinkling their on-air commentaries with terms like "Ricky" (another word for jerk) and "hurting" (something that is bad).
"The Sports Junkies" is one of the few home-grown radio entertainment shows in a town overrun with out-of-town, syndicated programs like "The Howard Stern Show." Tune into the Junkies and you'll hear lots of references to local faces and places, such as growing up in Bowie and fighting traffic in Northern Virginia.
Plus, they're pretty funny. If Washington loses them, it will be a debacle, to borrow another of their favorite terms.

More scores, bar none
Speaking of sports, WUSA has added a "sports bar" at the bottom of its screen during its 11 p.m. newscast.
The bar displays the latest scores for professional teams. It appears only during sports anchor Jess Atkison's reports.
"Inside an 11 o'clock newscast, there simply isn't enough time to have Jess announce all the scores. This helps us make our coverage a little more comprehensive," says Mr. Roberts, the station's news director.
The sports bar is similar to the "breakfast bar" that appears at the bottom of the screen during WUSA's morning news, displaying the latest weather and traffic information. Viewers may not like those news crawls on the cable networks, but they like WUSA's news bars, Mr. Roberts says.

This just in
Linda Sullivan, general manager of NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4), is a finalist to take over another NBC affiliate, KNTV-TV (Channel 3) in San Jose, Calif., according to the Broadcasting & Cable trade magazine. Ms. Sullivan declined comment last week.

Channel Surfing is published every other Monday. Got a tip? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]


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