- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Viewers of WRC-TV (Channel 4) are bidding farewell to three familiar faces as movie critic Arch Campbell, anchor Susan Kidd and technology reporter I.J. Hudson sign off this week.

The veterans are leaving the local news powerhouse on Nebraska Avenue amid budget cuts at parent NBC Universal, which aims to slice operating costs by $750 million over the next two years.

The exodus continues as George Michael steps down as sports director in March.

Of the trio, Mr. Campbell, WRC’s colorful entertainment reporter and reviewer, has been at the station the longest — 32 years.

“I think every broadcaster works his or her life for this final week, and so I’m trying to go out with as much dignity as I can,” Mr. Campbell said. He takes his final bow tomorrow.

Mr. Campbell, 60, came to WRC from his native Texas in 1974 and has since been known for his signature grin and congenial style. His departure marks the end of on-air movie critics in the Washington area.

In 1980, Mr. Campbell inaugurated the station’s movie, theater and feature beat. From 1985 to 1990, he was host of the “Arch Campbell Show,” a late-night comedy show that featured up-and-comers including Roseanne Barr, Ray Romano and Martin Lawrence.

As he combed through decades of footage to put together a montage of clips — to air during tomorrow’s 6 p.m. newscast — Mr. Campbell said he “rediscovered” his favorite story, a visit to his hometown of San Antonio in the early 1990s. The segment featured interviews with people who shaped his life, including his mother and the teacher who encouraged him to pursue a career in broadcast news.

But that’s not what he’s most proud of: “I really do believe that one of the most important things I did was work while I had colon cancer,” said Mr. Campbell, who underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed last year. “People need to know that you can survive and that there’s hope.”

Mr. Campbell said he is starting a Web site where he plans to write a blog and maintain a list of top movies. In addition, he’ll be doing reviews for local soft-rock radio station 97.1 WASH-FM. “I’m not finished yet, but I’m going to miss all my friends here,” he said.

‘New freedom’

There will be no frills for “News4 at 5” co-anchor Susan Kidd.

“I plan to go out just as I came in,” said Mrs. Kidd, who joined WRC 23 years ago as an anchor on the weekend evening newscast. “I think that people who have allowed me to be a part of their lives for all these years know the work that I’ve done, and I just kind of think [a special segment] is unnecessary.”

In 1988, Mrs. Kidd was named anchor of “News4 at 5,” which she has co-anchored with Wendy Rieger since 2001. The two also host a local highlights show, “News4 This Week.”

“The worst part of having a public job is a public end to that job,” said Mrs. Kidd, 56. “I will certainly miss my co-workers — that will be the toughest part — but I’m really looking forward to a new freedom.”

Mrs. Kidd has been the spokeswoman for the WRC “Get Healthy 4 Life” campaign for the past three years, filing weekly reports on healthy living. Her regular “What’s Working” reports highlight individuals and organizations benefiting the community.

Mrs. Kidd said there may never be another “really unique group” like the WRC team. “Most of the old heads love the news; they love journalism. It’s not so much about them; it’s about what they do. And I think people pick up on that,” she said.

For now, Mrs. Kidd said she plans to focus on enjoying retirement, but she did not rule out a future at another media outlet.

Mr. Technology

Sunday marked the last day on air for Mr. Hudson, 59, who started his WRC career in 1985.

“When you’ve been one place long enough, you’ve seen people get older, get married, have kids,” he said. “Some of your friends meet with tragedy, others move along with great success. Oftentimes you see some of these people more often than you see your own family.”

During his time at WRC, Mr. Hudson has covered Maryland politics and anchored the weekend editions of “News4 Today.” For the past 10 years, he has been the station’s technology reporter, striving to translate “geek-speak” into everyday English.

“That’s been the fun part, showing people stuff,” he said. “Receiving e-mails and letters from people who have been put off by technology, who have said ‘we’d like to thank you for explaining things to us.’ ”

In 2000, Mr. Hudson helped start the channel’s “Digital Edge Expo,” but some might be surprised to learn his favorite story wasn’t technology-related. It involved a 132-car pileup on Interstate 95 South in Virginia during the early part of 2001, when his news team was returning to Washington and noticed there were no cars on the other side of the highway.

“I told my photographer, ‘Turn on the camera and don’t turn it off. We’ll just walk through this,’ ” recalled Mr. Hudson, noting that camera crews from other stations couldn’t even get to the crash. “So we hit play, and we put on some of the most spectacular footage.”

As for his plans, Mr. Hudson said he is considered roles in broadcasting, public relations, private companies and even at universities, but nothing is decided.


Condolences go out to the family and friends of Gordon Davis, a cameraman for WJLA-TV (Channel 7), who was killed while on assignment yesterday morning. See page B1.

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