- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Brett Haber soon will join WUSA-TV (Channel 9) as chief sportscaster, completing the CBS affiliate’s overhaul of its main anchor team, people familiar with the situation said yesterday.

Mr. Haber — formerly of ESPN and WTTG-TV (Channel 5), the local Fox station — will replace Frank Herzog on WUSA’s weekday 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, the sources said.

Mr. Haber’s deal could be finalized as early as today. He will be WUSA’s sixth sports chief since Glenn Brenner died in 1992.

Mr. Haber could be seen on WUSA as soon as September, when the station plans to introduce Tracey Neale and Todd McDermott as new anchors. Other sources said Mr. Haber might not debut until November, when Mr. Herzog’s contract ends.

Mr. Haber, his agent and Darryll J. Green, WUSA’s general manager, either declined comment or did not return calls.

The station is holding off announcing the addition of Mr. Haber and Mr. McDermott until it has resolved contract talks with longtime star anchor Gordon Peterson.

The sources said the station wants to pair J.C. Hayward and Mr. McDermott at 5 p.m., Ms. Neale and Mr. Peterson at 6 p.m. and Ms. Neale and Mr. McDermott at 11 p.m.

Chief meteorologist Topper Shutt will give the weather forecasts, and Mr. Haber will deliver the sports reports during all three newscasts, the sources said.

This lineup is tentative, however, because Mr. Peterson — a 35-year Channel 9 veteran who has anchored the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts since 1971 — hasn’t reached a new deal with WUSA and corporate parent Gannett Co. Inc.

Mr. Peterson’s contract expires at the end of the year. He has declined comment on his future, but people close to him said he wants to continue his current anchor assignments at WUSA, which has slumped in the afternoon and early evening news ratings since it canceled its 4 p.m. newscast in 2000.

Gannett and WUSA have worked all summer to build a new news team around the popular Ms. Neale, who was lured away from WTTG in the spring. Station staffers said David Roberts, ousted this month as WUSA’s news director, played a lead role in wooing Ms. Neale, Mr. McDermott and Mr. Haber.

DCRTV.com, an industry gossip site, reported last month that Mr. Haber was spotted at WUSA’s Broadcast House studios.

Mr. Haber was part of the mid-1990s ESPN class that produced Keith Olbermann, now an MSNBC anchor, and Craig Kilborn, a late-night host at CBS.

In 1997, Mr. Haber joined WTTG, where he earned good reviews for breaking stories and delivering a smart sportscast.

CBS called Mr. Haber up to its New York station in 2000 to replace iconic sportscaster Warner Wolf, a Channel 9 alum. But Mr. Haber didn’t click in New York, and the station eventually cut him loose.

Last year, Mr. Haber returned to the Washington area to host the morning show at adult pop-music station WWZZ-FM (104.1).

Mr. Haber told WWZZ staffers last Friday that he will leave soon to take the WUSA job. Sources said WWZZ managers consider the split amicable.

The radio station has told some advertisers that Mr. Haber is leaving.

Mr. Haber’s WWZZ contract allows him to leave the station if a TV gig comes along, according to people familiar with the deal. On Friday, he will sign off at WWZZ to begin a vacation, but some staffers think it could be his radio swan song.

The move to WUSA will reunite Mr. Haber with Ms. Neale, with whom he worked at WTTG, and Mr. McDermott, a colleague from his CBS days in New York.

Local TV lives

WUSA is giving John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop and John-Paul Flaim — the hosts of the “Junkies in the Morning” on rock-music station WHFS-FM (99.1) — a weekly show.

“Junks TV” will air Saturdays at 2 a.m., beginning Sept. 4.

Scoff at the time slot, but remember: The Junkies got their start by parlaying a local cable-TV-access show in the mid-1990s into the radio fame that they enjoy today.

Meanwhile, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) is expected to revive “Capital Sunday” Sept. 5.

The ABC affiliate will air the locally produced newsmagazine on Sundays at 10 a.m., after the new weekend version of “Good Morning America” and “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” which moves to 9 a.m.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to [email protected]

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