- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Iconic television newsman Mike Buchanan is poised to depart WUSA-TV (Channel 9) this month after 33 years.

Mr. Buchanan has been off the air at the CBS affiliate for more than a week and is unlikely to return before his contract expires Dec. 31, according to knowledgeable sources. He still suffers from injuries received in a car accident in July, the sources said.

He eventually might move to another station, the sources said.

The deadpan Mr. Buchanan joined Channel 9 in 1970 and became a star reporter on the police beat. The station paired him with Andrea Roane on the anchor desk in September 1989, creating one of Washington’s premier news teams.

Mr. Buchanan stepped down as co-anchor of WUSA’s early news in August and returned to street reporting.

“Mike has requested some time off and we are working with him,” said General Manager Darrell Green. He declined further comment.

Mr. Buchanan’s agent, Steve Dickstein, and WUSA’s news director, David Roberts, also declined comment.

Across town, Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) still hasn’t reached a deal with star anchor Tracey Neale, whose contract expires this month. Stay tuned on that one.

Cooter subs for Gopher

Let’s all remember to include local talk station WMAL-AM (630) when we count our blessings tonight. Now that “Murder, She Wrote” is off the air, where else can old TV actors find work?

Consider this: Ben Jones will fill in for Fred Grandy on tomorrow’s edition of “The WMAL Morning News,” which airs weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Mr. Jones, of course, played mechanic Cooter Davenport on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and represented the Atlanta suburbs as a Democrat in the U.S. House. Mr. Grandy starred as Yeoman-Purser Burl “Gopher” Smith on “The Love Boat,” and represented Iowa as a Republican in the House for eight years. He joined WMAL in June.

Sports redux

Now it takes two local radio stations to contain Jim Rome’s ego.

Clear Channel Communications Inc. will flip the format of WWRC-AM (1260) from CNN news to sports talk on Saturday.

The station will simulcast some of the programs heard on Clear Channel’s other local sports station, WTEM-AM (980), including Mr. Rome’s syndicated talk show. Eventually, WWRC will carry Mr. Rome exclusively.

Under new management

Bonneville International Corp. canned WWZZ-FM (104.1) General Manager Mark O’Brien last week and replaced him with Joel Oxley, who manages its other stations in the Washington area, all-news WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) and classical music WGMS-FM (103.5).

Mr. O’Brien skillfully flipped WWZZ’s format from teen pop to a more adult sound two years ago and began a “more music, fewer commercials” experiment that has made the station a critical favorite, if not a ratings winner.

Mr. Oxley praised Mr. O’Brien and said he doesn’t plan major changes at WWZZ, although it may move from Arlington to 3400 Idaho Ave. NW, where WTOP and WGMS are based.

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

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