- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

The top manager at WUSA-TV (Channel 9) resigned yesterday, ending a two-year stint in which the CBS affiliate made some ratings gains, but also experienced behind-the-scenes turmoil.

Ardyth R. Diercks, WUSA’s president and general manager since August 2001, quit to run the NBC affiliate in Miami. She had left WUSA’s Broadcast House studios in upper Northwest when an executive from the station’s parent company, Gannett Co. Inc., announced her resignation to staffers.

“I think she feels a little more comfortable contacting people on a one-on-one basis to say goodbye,” said Richard A. Mallary, a Gannett senior vice president who will serve as WUSA’s interim chief until a permanent replacement is named.

Mrs. Diercks spent about 20 years with Gannett, where she also served as a senior vice president. Her decision to join the Miami station surprised many people who work in the industry.

In a statement released by NBC, Mrs. Diercks called her new job “a terrific opportunity for me to join the best-managed stations group in the industry.”

Mrs. Diercks’ tenure at WUSA was mixed. Knowledgeable staffers said she often clashed with News Director David Roberts, and she ruffled some feathers when she dropped the station’s “Eyewitness News” banner after 30 years.

Staffers also complained about Gannett budget cuts and frequent newsroom turnover, particularly in the sports department.

WUSA experienced modest ratings growth during Mrs. Diercks’ watch, although the station failed to recapture the local news crown from rival WRC-TV (Channel 4), the local NBC affiliate.

Her departure was announced the day after an internal shakeup at WRC, also an NBC-owned-and-operated station.

Robert L. Long, vice president of WRC’s news and operations since 1999, announced he will leave next month to run the newsroom at NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate. Michael Whatley, WRC’s operations director, announced plans to join the ABC station in Los Angeles.

NBC executive Steve Schwaid will oversee WRC’s newsroom during the search for Mr. Long’s successor. Producer Frank Caskin will handle day-to-day newsroom management, although Mr. Caskin is expected to leave WRC soon as well.

The station lost two other senior newsroom managers earlier this year, raising concerns among staffers that it has lost much of its institutional memory.

“All of the big glass offices here are going to be empty soon,” one staffer said.


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