- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

WJLA-TV (Channel 7) finally has replaced popular “Good Morning Washington” forecaster Alexandra Steele, who departed Thanksgiving Day for the Weather Channel.

Weather producer Brian van de Graaff took over the gig on Monday after signing a contract that makes him a full-time forecaster for the ABC affiliate. He will be seen weekdays from 5 to 7 a.m., noon to 12:30 p.m. and during the local cut-ins on “Good Morning America.”

Station managers call the assignment temporary, although the word around the newsroom is that the higher-ups think highly of the affable Mr. van de Graaff.

Since Miss Steele left WJLA, he has shared the morning forecasting duties with fellow producer Adam Caskey and Kyle Osborne, the entertainment reporter for WJLA’s sister cable network, NewsChannel 8.

In the meantime, station managers talked to virtually every forecaster under the sun — including WUSA-TV (Channel 9) veterans Tony Williams and Lexy Hickock — but couldn’t strike a deal with anyone.

Mr. van de Graaff, who expects to get his American Meteorological Society seal within the next year, is a Culpeper, Va., native who remembers rushing home from school weekday afternoons to watch Doug Hill and Bill Kamal deliver the forecasts on WUSA.

“They would do five minutes of straight weather at 5:55. It was the best way to know if you were going to get a snow day at school,” he recalled.

Mr. van de Graaff met Mr. Hill when he interviewed him for a class project during his freshman year at George Mason University. Not long after graduating, Mr. Hill hired him to produce his forecasts.

When Mr. Hill moved from WUSA to WJLA three years ago, he brought Mr. van de Graaff with him.

“I was actually a line in his contract,” Mr. van de Graaff said.

Mr. Osborne now heads to the evening newscasts on NewsChannel 8, where he will replace forecaster Marlon McGhee, who has been axed because of budget cuts.

Cutbacks have also forced NewsChannel 8’s chief sportscaster, Glenn Harris, to move to part-time status. He still will host his prime time “Sports Talk” series, but will no longer be seen on the network’s evening newscasts. No replacement there has been named.

Good night, Mr. Jennings

The folks at WUSA are mourning James Jennings, a beloved former newsroom assistant who died last week of Alzheimer’s disease.

The grandfatherly Mr. Jennings spent 32 years at the CBS affiliate, beginning in June 1969. He also worked a second full-time job as a copy aide at the Voice of America radio service.

Anchor Bruce Johnson remembered when staffers banded together to ask for a pay raise for Mr. Jennings, who he said was too humble to ask for one himself.

According to anchor J.C. Hayward, former Channel 9 star Max Robinson once used his clout to get the station to sign a document that stated Mr. Jennings would have a job at Broadcast House as long as he wanted one.

“Mr. Jennings was the kindest, sweetest, most gentle gentleman. He was our heart and soul,” Miss Hayward said.

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

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