- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Is former Iowa Congressman and “Love Boat” star Fred Grandy about to drop anchor at WMAL-AM (630)?

Mr. Grandy has been a frequent guest host at the ABC-owned talk station for about five years. This week, he’s filling in as Andy Parks’ co-host on the troubled “WMAL Morning News,” which airs weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The folks at Jenifer Street NW, where WMAL is based, are buzzing that General Manager Chris Berry is eyeing Mr. Grandy for a permanent gig on that show.

Fueling the speculation: Mr. Parks’ regular co-host, Jane Norris, has been shipped off to evenings at 9, where she is hosting a series of one-hour specials this week.

Staffers suspect Mr. Berry wants to see how Mr. Parks and Mr. Grandy get along and how Ms. Norris fares as a solo host.

“Radio is a very dynamic business, and we’re always taking the pulse of the audience and evaluating programming,” Mr. Berry said, declining further comment.

Mr. Grandy said he would probably take a permanent gig if it was offered. “Radio touches a lot of the bases I’m interested in, from politics to entertainment,” he said.

Mr. Grandy represented Iowa as a Republican in the U.S. House from 1987 until 1995. He then ran the charity Goodwill Industries and is now a visiting public-affairs professor at the University of Maryland.

But Mr. Grandy is probably best known as yeoman-purser Burl “Gopher” Smith on “The Love Boat,” which ABC aired from 1977 until 1986.

The low-rated “WMAL Morning News” debuted in July with three hosts: Mr. Parks, Ms. Norris and Bill Press, who left in May to focus on his MSNBC series, “Buchanan and Press.”

Staffers believe Mr. Berry wants to shift the show’s focus away from political debate toward a mix of news and light features.

Company man

Doug McKelway, an anchor and reporter for WJLA-TV (Channel 7), is appearing in a commercial in which he explains the ABC affiliate’s position in its dispute with the Dish Network satellite service.

EchoStar Communications Corp., which owns Dish Network, dropped WJLA from its lineup Sunday after it failed to reach a new agreement with WJLA parent company Allbritton Communications Co. EchoStar wants to carry other ABC stations in parts of the Washington area, which Allbritton says is unfair.

“We hope the Dish Network will act responsibly and return ABC 7 to their customers. But if not, you can dump Dish Network to receive ABC 7,” Mr. McKelway says in the spot.

Mr. McKelway, a favorite among viewers and colleagues alike, is regarded as one of the most independent minds in the WJLA newsroom. He said he didn’t see a conflict of interest when management asked him to tape the spot.

“I’m happy to be the voice of the station. Our commitment is to do local news better than anybody, and I want to see us succeed. What purpose does it serve for local viewers to see traffic reports from the Cross Bronx Expressway?”

Around the dial…

• Former Washington Times reporter Jonetta Rose Barras has joined WAMU-FM (88.5) as resident commentator on “The D.C. Politics Hour,” which airs Fridays at noon. She succeeds Mark Plotkin, who bolted for WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) last year.

• Speaking of Mr. Plotkin, his guest on WTOP’s “Politics Program” Friday at 10 a.m. will be the Rev. Al Sharpton. The Democratic presidential candidate will discuss the District’s Jan. 13 presidential primary, which will be the first in the nation, no matter what those delusional New Hampshire folks think.

• Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139.

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