- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Tracey Neale has left the building. At least for now. Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) still hasn’t signed its star anchor to a new contract. Her current deal expires tomorrow.

It is not clear whether Ms. Neale will return to the anchor desk she has commanded since joining Channel 5 in December 1994. She last appeared on WTTG on Dec. 9.

Ms. Neale declined to comment. WTTG’s news director, Katherine Green, could not be reached.

“The only thing I can really tell you is that we will not be announcing Tracey’s retirement on Dec. 18,” said her agent, Lou Oppenheim.

The popular Ms. Neale, who anchors WTTG’s 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, is widely regarded as one of the station’s smartest storytellers. She won local Emmys for best news anchor in 2002 and 2003, and was honored with an Emmy and other awards in 2000 for a documentary on AIDS in Africa.

In November, WTTG aired Ms. Neale’s lengthy profiles of sniper John Allen Muhammad and his suspected accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

Contract negotiations — and posturing over them — are common in local TV news.

Ms. Neale’s biography is posted on the station’s Web site. However, her desk in the newsroom has been cleared off and her clothing removed from the wardrobe area.

The recording of her voice that greeted callers to the station has been replaced with a taped message from co-anchor Brian Bolter, although some staffers said that happened a while ago.

Flying solo

John Batchelor is now a bachelor — on the radio, at least.

Paul Alexander, Mr. Batchelor’s partner on the syndicated “Batchelor & Alexander” political talk show, left last week to focus on his career as a playwright. Mr. Alexander’s off-Broadway play on Sylvia Plath, “Edge,” moves to London next month.

“Batchelor & Alexander,” which originates from New York, has been renamed “The John Batchelor Show.” In the Washington area, WMAL-AM (630) carries the show Monday through Saturday from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.

The program has a loyal following inside the Beltway. Mr. Alexander and his wobbly voice may be gone, but Mr. Batchelor said the show otherwise remains the same, right down to the signature mood music that plays between segments.

Mr. Batchelor and Mr. Alexander said there is no bad blood between them. Mr. Alexander said “Edge” is expected to have a lengthy London engagement. “It looks like I’m going to be on another continent for the next two years,” he said.

Ratings roundup

Washingtonians turned to NBC on Sunday for coverage of Saddam Hussein’s capture. The network’s local affiliate, WRC-TV (Channel 4), dominated the ratings from about 7 a.m. until about 1 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. Viewership peaked during President Bush’s speech at 12:15 p.m., when roughly 233,500 households were tuned into WRC.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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