We hear that NBC News and The Wall Street Journal will team up as pollsters, a la CBS/The New York Times and ABC/The Washington Post, probably starting in October . . .

The one-year contract calls for 10 polls over that period. The Journal will aid NBC in preparing questions for the various polls, which will include business, political and cultural surveys . . .

Results will be aired initially on "NBC Nightly News" and appear the next morning in The Journal . . .

The polling will be done by the NBC News election and polling unit . . .

And another rocket from NBC News: When Tom Brokaw read a couple of viewer letters on the Wednesday "Nightly News" expressing opinions about the war with Japan . . . it marked the beginning of what is going to be a periodic feature on the new broadcast . . .

NBC's "Today" show has a similar segment that appears monthly . . .

And, as long as we're talking "Today" (do you notice how effortlessly one item leads to another this morning, TV Column fans?), NBC will jet House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass.) down from his Cape Cod vacation home Monday afternoon so he can tape a "live interview" at 6 p.m. at Rockefeller Plaza for the 8 p.m. network telecast that night of "Today -- At Night" . . .

The one-hour prime-time appearance of Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley, Willard Scott and John Palmer is a not-so-subtle promotion effort by NBC to bring its early morning show to the attention of the much larger evening audiences and, by so doing, perhaps win more viewers for the morning program . . .

Which, just last week, averaged a 3.8 Nielsen rating and a 20 percent share of the audience, compared to a 4.3/23 for first-place "Good Morning America" and a 2.8/15 for "CBS Morning News" . . .

Aside from O'Neill, "Today -- At Night" will feature an interview with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, the stars of NBC's "Miami Vice" (another program the network is flacking very hard this summer), and there will be tapes from "Today's" recent trips to Rome, Vietnam and Moscow . . . CBS, Meanwhile

Will be doing a little promotion of its own on Wednesday night, Sept. 18, when the network introduces its new lineup for that evening a week ahead of the "official" start of the new season . . .

At least two of the shows in the lineup -- "Charlie & Co.," starring Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight, and "George Burns' Comedy Week" -- have been marked for early expiration by several industry observers shrewd enough to note that they'll be up against ABC's "Dynasty" . . .

Which probably explains why CBS Entertainment is giving them the head start . . .

"Stir Crazy" will start the evening at 8, the two comedies will follow, and "The Equalizer," Captain Airwaves' early favorite, comes in at 10 . . .

"Hometown," which owes so much to "The Big Chill," is another getting the early treatment from CBS. It debuts next Thursday night for a run before slipping into its regular 8 p.m. Tuesday slot on Sept. 24 . . .

Speaking of Thursday night, Nedra Volz has been cast as the bail bond person on ABC's "The Fall Guy," replacing Markie Post . . .

Also at ABC, Terry Bradshaw will appear in the first episode of "Hardcastle & McCormick" in the fall, and actor George Kennedy is writing a two-part mystery episode for "Benson," which will probably air next spring on the network . . . Meanwhile

ABC News' "Nightline" is hanging in there in the late-night ratings race . . .

For the week ending Aug. 9, NBC's "The Tonight Show" was first with a 6.8 rating and an 18 share, but Ted Koppel & Co. were right behind with a 6.3/17, while the CBS lineup scored a 5.3/15 . . .

National figures for CBS News' "West 57th" debut Tuesday night showed the magazine hour averaged a 10.5 Nielsen rating and a 19 share, compared to a 13.6/24 for "MacGruder & Loud" on ABC and a 12.8/23 for "Remington Steele" on NBC . . .

The modest rating, which represented 8.9 million TV homes, was about 300,000 TV homes up on the debut last week of NBC's "American Almanac" magazine . . .

CBS News yesterday also pointed out that the numbers represented a considerable improvement over those garnered by the more conventional CBS News magazine, "Crossroads," which averaged a 7.7/16 over nine weeks last summer . . .

As expected, the flashy "West 57th" didn't play quite as well in the rural markets as it did in the big cities . . .

And it certainly didn't play with Fred W. Friendly, former CBS News president and producer for Edward R. Murrow . . .

Fred grumped that " 'West 57th' is a piece of glitz . . . I'm glad that Ed Murrow didn't live to see this program, and I'm sad I did" . . .

Five more "West 57ths" are scheduled in its current run . . .

ABC has set the nights of Nov. 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 for its "North and South" mini-series adopted from the John Jakes novel . . . which ought to help the network's November ratings sweeps average . . . Also in the News

CBS' "Face the Nation" has scheduled a live-via-satellite interview with South African foreign minister R. W. (Pik) Botha this Sunday (Channel 9, 11:30 a.m.) . . .

Correspondent Fred Graham will anchor the program for vacationing Lesley Stahl. He will be joined by Chester Crocker, assistant secretary of state for Africa, and Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) . . .

CBS News was sure it had an "exclusive" interview set up with Botha, but learned of his scheduled appearance on ABC's "Nightline" tonight in Thursday's Post, which reported that ABC was billing the interview as Botha's first since the state of emergency was declared in South Africa . . .

CBS contacted the South African foreign ministry yesterday and was assured by a spokesman that it indeed had the "exclusive" and that the mix-up was "due to a misunderstanding between ABC and the deputy foreign minister's office" . . .

Late yesterday, ABC News said they checked again, too, and Botha's appearance tonight is still definitely on and they couldn't imagine what CBS News was talking about . . .

Potomac News, an independent TV news service that serves 70 stations around the country, announced yesterday that Michael Toscano has been named Washington bureau chief . . .

He replaces Donald Brownlee, who has been named general manager of the Potomac-owned radio station WPOE in Greenfield, Mass. . . .

Channel 5 has named Frank Traynor, formerly with KYW in Philadelphia, as producer of the 10 o'clock news . . .

He replaces Dan Cohen, who was promoted to managing editor . . .

Five, incidentally, said yesterday that its Wednesday night telecast of "WKRP in Cincinnati" at 11 p.m. beat all three local news shows at that hour in both the Nielsen and Arbitron overnight ratings . . .

In the Nielsen meter count, "WKRP" had an 11.2 rating and a 25 share, compared to a 9.7/22 for WDVM news, a 9.5/22 for WRC and a 6.7/15 for WJLA . . .

In the ARB book (and note the different rankings among the news shows), "WKRP" had a 9.3/24, followed by 8.5/22 for WJLA, an 8.1/21 for WDVM and a 5.6/14 for WRC . . .