- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Staffers at WJLA-TV (Channel 7) say management unfairly suspended a popular executive producer last week after some expensive editing equipment disappeared.
   
   Jim Schaefer, a veteran at the ABC affiliate, was called into news chief Bill Lord’s office Thursday and told he was suspended with pay indefinitely. Staffers believe management wants to hold Mr. Schaefer accountable for the disappearance of at least three attache case-size editing machines that news crews use to prepare stories in the field.
   
   Mr. Schaefer has some responsibility for newsroom operations, but staffers said he was not in charge of the missing equipment. It’s not clear who was.
   
   “Jim Schaefer had nothing to do with it. It’s just not in his character,” said one staffer, who asked not to be identified.
   
   Management realized the equipment was missing after WJLA and NewsChannel 8 moved to Arlington in September, but no one knows whether it was lost or stolen. Knowledgeable sources say it would cost between $12,000 and $18,000 to replace each machine.
   
   An Arlington County Police Department spokesman said it appears no report has been filed with his agency.
   
   Mr. Lord declined comment, and Mr. Schaefer could not be reached. Sources said the order to suspend him came from the headquarters of WJLA parent Allbritton Communications Co.
   
   One staffer described Mr. Schaefer as “the person you go to here when there is a crisis. He doesn’t cause problems. He solves them.”
   
   Said another: “This is a classic case of Allbritton shooting itself in the foot. It’s a true morale destroyer.”
   
   Ins and outs
   
   Reporter Greg Starddard is off the air at WUSA-TV (Channel 9) after three years. Management chose not to renew his contract.
   
   Leslie Cook is joining NewsChannel 8 as weekend morning anchor and weekday reporter. She previously anchored at the NBC affiliate in Austin, Texas. Her husband, Patrick Rhode, is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s chief of staff.
   
   MSNBC reporter Rick Sanchez was spotted recently in the WJLA-NewsChannel 8 newsroom, generating buzz he is angling for an anchor job. Mr. Lord declined comment, and Mr. Sanchez didn’t return our call. In an April 15 Miami Herald interview, Mr. Sanchez denied reports he was negotiating a return to South Florida, where he worked for 17 years.
   
   No cakewalk
   
   When radio pundit Mark Plotkin told listeners recently that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer took the cake for suggesting the Constitution shouldn’t be amended so District residents can have full voting rights, he meant it.
   
   Mr. Plotkin asked Mr. Fleischer at an April 15 press briefing why President Bush supports democracy in Iraq but opposes full voting rights for District residents. Mr. Bush’s position “finds its original roots in the Constitution. There’s no argument about it,” Mr. Fleischer responded.
   
   That left Mr. Plotkin, who drove the campaign to put “Taxation Without Representation” on D.C. license plates, fuming.
   
   “If you carry his specious logic further, the Constitution should never have been amended for the Bill of Rights, or to allow women to vote,” said Mr. Plotkin, who announced on his WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) talk show that Mr. Fleischer would receive his weekly “Takes the Cake” honor.
   
   The award a strawberry cream cake from Whole Foods is delivered by Mr. Plotkin’s friends at the Georgetowner newspaper. No word on how they plan to get it past White House security.
   
   Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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