- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

You might expect Gurvir Dhindsa to be plenty angry these days. Not just ticked off, either, but shake-your-fists-at-the-heavens mad.

After all, Ms. Dhindsa’s bosses at WUSA-TV (Channel 9) finally confirmed last week their plan to replace her on their anchor desk with Tracey Neale, whom they pursued quietly until word leaked out three months ago.

The day after Ms. Dhindsa got her pink slip, one of her beloved pet dogs, an Australian shepherd named Cutter, died.

She isn’t bitter about any of this. Far from it, in fact.

“My saying is, ‘There for the grace of God go I,’” Ms. Dhindsa said earlier this week in the living room of her stately Fauquier County, Va., farmhouse. “My faith has been getting me through. If anything, it’s made me stronger.”

In a business full of fragile egos, Gurvir Dhindsa, 42, is the steeliest of magnolias.

She became Atlanta TV’s darling in the late 1990s when she co-anchored the morning newscast on that city’s Fox affiliate.

With no fanfare, WUSA brought her to Washington in July 2000 and paired her with Gordon Peterson on its evening newscasts.

Ms. Dhindsa, who was born in India and raised primarily in Nashville, Tenn., replaced Andrea Roane, who suffered the unfortunate fate of being the woman who replaced Maureen Bunyan as Mr. Peterson’s on-air partner.

Many staffers said Ms. Dhindsa experienced nasty backlash within some Broadcast House cliques because she was a newcomer and an Indian in a job traditionally held by blacks.

On her first day at Channel 9, a colleague reportedly pulled Ms. Dhindsa aside and warned her, “This place is a snake pit.”

Ms. Dhindsa displays Foggy Bottom-worthy diplomacy when discussing her tenure at WUSA. She concedes only that she didn’t feel welcome in the beginning, but stresses that she has since made great friends, particularly Mr. Peterson and her newsroom deskmate, Bruce Johnson.

WUSA’s 11 p.m. ratings have grown steadily since Ms. Dhindsa arrived, but the 6 p.m. numbers remain disappointing. Ms. Dhindsa turned down a job in another city last year because she said her boss had promised her a new contract.

Then news broke in December that WUSA was secretly courting Ms. Neale.

When Ms. Dhindsa finished anchoring the 11 p.m. newscast last Wednesday, General Manager Darryll J. Green, wearing a tuxedo because he had just returned from the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, called Ms. Dhindsa into his office and confirmed that the station did not plan to renew her contract.

Ms. Neale paid a surprise visit to Broadcast House the next day to sign her new deal.

WUSA wants Ms. Dhindsa to stay on its airwaves until her contract ends in mid-July. She hopes to remain in the Washington area, and dreams of landing another morning gig.

Ever the class act, Ms. Dhindsa wishes Ms. Neale the best. The women do not know each other, although they once ran into each at the Ann Taylor store in Friendship Heights.

“Tracey will do a fine job. None of this is her doing. If I was in her shoes and had this opportunity, I would take it, too,” she said.

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

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