- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

Mike Buchanan is about to blow a gasket.It is a Monday morning in late May. The WUSA-TV (Channel 9) newsman and his co-anchor, Andrea Roane, are grilling Gov. Mark Warner about a referendum to raise Northern Virginia's sales tax.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, says approving the measure is the best way to fund badly needed transportation projects in that region.
That's when Mr. Buchanan erupts.
"People in [Northern] Virginia, they pay their sales tax, they pay their state income tax, they pay their property tax, they pay their car tax. Why the hell do they have to vote themselves a tax increase just to get something for their area?" he blares.
It is classic "Buck and Andrea," as they are known around the WUSA newsroom. She quizzes guests with detailed questions; he cuts to the chase by saying what many viewers are probably thinking.
The audience seems to like it. Ratings for WUSA's early morning news has surged since Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane took the gig, almost two years ago.
Perhaps even better, the duo may make broadcasting history this Saturday, when the Washington chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announces its local news Emmy awards.
The chapter has jointly nominated Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane for best news anchor, the first time in its 44-year history that an anchor team has been nominated. The award is traditionally given to a single anchor.
This year's other nominees are WUSA's Gordon Peterson, Tracey Neale of Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) and Jeff Salkin of Maryland Public Television.
The joint nomination was no accident. WUSA submitted Mr. Buchanan's and Ms. Roane's names together.
"Individually, they are both very good. Put them together, and they're that much better," says Ardy Diercks, president and general manager of the CBS affiliate.
Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane were first teamed in September 1989 on WUSA's old 4 p.m. newscast.
It was an unusual pairing. He was the station's Joe Friday-style police reporter. She was one of the station's smoothest newsreaders.
Their quirky chemistry helped make the 4 p.m. show a solid-second place finisher to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" juggernaut on ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7).
In 1995, WUSA split Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane up when it tapped her to co-anchor the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts with Gordon Peterson.
That arrangement never clicked with viewers. In October 2000, with WUSA's morning numbers sagging, the station reunited Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane, giving them the 5 to 7 a.m. newscast and creating a new news hour for them to host at 9 a.m.
Neither anchor was thrilled with the gig. "[Management] asked me what I wanted to do. I said the 5 o'clock and 6 o'clock news. I didn't mean 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.," Mr. Buchanan cracks.
Essentially, the duo's move to mornings was the local equivalent of Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson taking over ABC's "Good Morning America" in 1999 to bail it out of the ratings gutter.
Local morning television had traditionally been a place to try out new talent, usually reporters taking their first stab at anchoring. By the time Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane moved to mornings, they were veterans. He came to the station in 1970; she arrived in 1981.
Their paychecks reflected their marquee status, and they immediately became one of the highest-paid local morning anchor teams in the nation, according to people with knowledge of their salaries.
They have proven their worth. During the recent May TV ratings sweep, when broadcasters set their advertising rates, WUSA's ratings were up 43 percent over the previous May. The program finished in second place behind NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4), whose early morning numbers were down 27 percent.
"Seeing the numbers makes it a lot easier to get up this early. It's nice to know that people are watching," Ms. Roane says.
In action, the duo are like a well-choreographed ballet team.
Mr. Buchanan is frenetic, springing corny jokes on Ms. Roane and weathercaster Hillary Howard and constantly shuffling papers on the anchor desk.
Ms. Roane is always poised, never losing her cool.
When she needs to remind him to pay attention to the teleprompter, she gives him a hand signal out of the camera's view.
When he wants to signal for her to wrap up an interview, he leans forward in his chair.
When they interview a guest, they follow one rule: Whomever asks the first question gets to ask a follow-up, and then the conversation becomes fair game.
Their talents are best displayed on the 9 a.m. newscast, which features a heavy dose of in-studio interviews with local politicians, commentators and authors who come to Washington to plug their latest book.
Ms. Roane says the 9 a.m. newscast is more challenging than the 5 to 7 a.m. show, where the anchors introduce the same news, weather and traffic reports again and again.
"We call [the 9 a.m. show] the pop quiz because when there's a breaking story, we don't necessarily know who the [in-studio] guests are going to be," she says.
A senior newsroom staffer says Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Roane are the rare news team that get along as well off screen as they do on. "We have to like each other. We are bound by sleep deprivation," Mr. Buchanan says.

No compromise
The District's top cops were angered last month when WTTG reported Chandra Levy may have been tied up before she died, but the station says the story didn't compromise the investigation.
WTTG was careful to not report how Miss Levy may have been restrained, News Director Katherine Green says. "We would never report something if we thought it would compromise a police investigation," she says.
Reporter Paul Wagner broke the story May 23, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. In a published report the next day, Terry Gainer, then the District's assistant police chief, said the sources who leaked the information should be "shot or put in jail."
Mr. Gainer, now chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, could not be reached for further comment. A source close to him said he didn't blame the station for reporting the information, he was just angry it was leaked.
The report was the latest exclusive for Mr. Wagner, who has covered the Levy case for more than a year. Last year, he was the first reporter to disclose police planned to search the home of Rep. Gary A. Condit, a California Democrat. Police have repeatedly said Mr. Condit is not a suspect.

This just in
WJLA will air "Washington After Dark," an hour-long tour of local bars and restaurants, June 18 at 8 p.m. The station's news department produced the special, which pre-empts back-to-back "Spin City" repeats. It is the second of four prime time news specials WJLA plans to air this year.

Channel Surfing moves to Wednesdays on June 19, when it becomes a weekly column. Got a tip? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]


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