Now Here's the News

Channel 7 news beat Channel 9 news to the air with the story that the Evening News Association, which owns Channel 9, had been sold yesterday to Gannett. . .

Incidentally, first reaction at Nine to the news of the merger was one of relief. "Gannett runs a first-class broadcasting operation," station manager Ron Townsend said late yesterday. "We've been assured that we will continue to have the autonomy that we enjoyed under the Evening News Association. We're all pleased and thank goodness the rumors are all behind us after all these weeks". . .

ABC confirmed yesterday that it has "98 percent completed" the process of cutting 350 employes from the payroll. . .

In addition, another 265 positions that have been open for some time will not be filled. . . part of a cost-cutting effort that was ordered earlier this summer. . .

We hear that Channel 4 weekend anchor Mike Hambrick, whose three-year contract ends in a couple of weeks, has received nibbles from at least two stations, including WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, Pa. . . . where he's been offered a weeknight anchor job. . .

Hambrick and WRC parted amicably after the station couldn't guarantee him the weeknight anchor job he wanted here in the near future . . .

The tambourines are finally silent at Channel 26 after 14 long nights of continuing alms talks and once again, despite the grumbling about the program interruptions, the endless promotions, etc., WETA's loyal viewership came through . . .

In fact, the August drive raised $317,388.55 from 6,257 pledges . . . a 14 percent increase over the August drive last year . . .

In addition, another $35,290 was received from matching grants provided by Kiplinger, the Frank Pace Foundation and J.C. Penney . . .

Sunday, Aug. 25, featuring an "Evening at the Pops" retrospective and the Leonard Bernstein recording of his "West Side Story," produced the highest single night results, a total of $50,719 . . .

But Wednesday night's finale, the "Gala of Stars, 1985," produced the best single program results, some $44,000 . . .

The most popular gift was an LP with the "Reilly: Ace of Spies" theme among its selections . . .

And over at Maryland Public Television, the tambourines are silent, too, after a 12-night drive that netted $281,525, a 17 percent increase from last August's fund-raising campaign . . .

Top money producers for MPT were the National Geographic specials retrospective, a "Pops Goes to the Circus" concert, "Liberace in Las Vegas" and an evening of Leo Buscaglia programming . . . Also in the News

A memorial service for Samantha Smith was held in the St. Nicholas Church in Gstaad, Switzerland, on Wednesday by members of the crew of "Lime Street," the ABC series in which the 13-year-old girl was to star this fall . . .

Miss Smith and her father were killed in a plane crash Monday in Maine as they returned from London where she had been filming with the "Lime Street" production company . . .

Wednesday, Robert J. Wagner, the star of the series, attended a memorial service in Augusta, Maine, for Miss Smith. Wagner's children attended the Gstaad service, along with series costar John Standing . . .

The "Lime Street" crew had moved on to Switzerland from London over the weekend for further location shooting . . .

Forty-four news and documentary Emmy Awards were presented last night at a dinner in New York. The winners included:

In the category of "Outstanding Investigative Journalism -- Programs": "The Silent Shame" on "NBC Nightly News" and "Hard Metals Disease" on the "Today" show . . .

For "Outstanding Investigative Journalism -- Segments": "General Dynamics" on the "CBS Evening News"; "Leader LaRouche" on NBC's "First Camera"; and "What Happened to the Children?" on ABC's "20/20" . . .

And for "Outstanding Interview/Interviewer -- Programs," PBS' "A Walk Through the 20th Century" . . .

Overall, PBS won 19 awards, CBS 11, ABC 7 and NBC 6. One award went to a syndicated show . . .

Former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie has joined ABC Sports as a studio analyst for the college football season . . .

He'll be on the Saturday afternoon crew with Jim Lampley and Beano Cook . . .

The third outing of CBS News' "West 57th" earned a 10.6 rating and a 19 percent audience share in the national Nielsens . . .

That's up from a 9.7/17 the previous week and a slight, very slight, improvement over the 10.5/19 of the premiere . . . and would seem to give the lie to Airwaves' Fifth Law: The Worse The Show, The Lower The Rating . . . which had been previously challenged successfully only by "Foul-Ups, Bleeps and Blunders" . . .

That one hour of prime-time promotion on NBC a week ago Monday night for the "Today" show didn't seem to help much . . .

In fact, Nielsen numbers for last week show that "Good Morning America" had a 4.8 rating and a 24 percent audience share, compared to a 3.7/19 for "Today" and a 2.8/14 for "CBS Morning News" . . .

And that's the biggest margin GMA has enjoyed over "Today" since March as the NBC program earned its lowest audience share since the same week last spring . . .

That "Today -- At Night" promotion on Aug. 19 didn't set any records, either, finishing in a tie for 42nd among 60 prime-time shows rated that week, with a 10.3/18 . . .

To the relief of more than a few nervous NBC executives, the ambitious and creative Steve Sohmer has been named president and chief operating officer of Columbia Motion Pictures . . .

Sohmer joined NBC in 1982 after five years with CBS and rapidly rose to become executive vice president in charge of advertising and promotion. Sohmer was also put in overall charge of daytime and children's programming . . .

Sohmer will be long remembered at the House of Hits for his zealous promotion efforts the night a few years ago when then-third-place NBC walked away with dozens of prime-time Emmy awards . . .

That night, however, it was NBC's turn to air the prime-time Emmys. And Sohmer's insertion of NBC promos for the winning shows and actors on the broadcast every time NBC won a big Emmy didn't sit well with ABC, CBS and even NBC Chairman Grant Tinker, who thought Steve had kind of overdone it . . .

It is expected that no replacement will be named for Sohmer's job, a kind of super vice presidency that was created especially for him . . .

John Miller, who is in charge of day-to-day advertising and promotion at NBC but reported to Sohmer, is expected to remain in that post but will probably report to Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff when the jobs are realigned . . .

At Columbia, Sohmer, who has no experience in producing or marketing motion pictures, will oversee the studio's film production and report to Guy McElwaine, chairman and chief executive at Columbia . . . Wait, There's More

If you're up real early this morning, TV Column fans, you can tune in "CBS Early Morning News" at 6 a.m. to find out the results of a poll by CBS News on the public's perception of air safety . . .

If you want to sleep in a little, there'll be a panel on the subject on "CBS Morning News" starting about 7:10 a.m. . . .

ABC's daytime lineup finished first for the week of Aug. 23, the 10th week in the last 13 the network has been on top . . .

ABC had a 6.6 Nielsen rating and a 22 percent audience share, compared to CBS' 6.4/22 and NBC's 5.0/17 . . .

And ABC Entertainment, which has had very little to cheer about for some time, is feeling better about Tuesday nights all of a sudden . . .

Tuesdays have belonged to NBC ever since "The A-Team" moved in . . .

But for the past four weeks in a row, with a lot of help from "Moonlighting" and "Who's The Boss?" reruns and the down-in-the-dumps CBS Tuesday movie lineup, ABC has won the night beating NBC's lineup by up to a couple of ratings points while demolishing CBS . . .

Two reasons for the ABC renascence this summer: A lot of people were catching up on "Moonlighting" after ignoring it the first time around this spring -- ABC has been promoting the daylighting out of "Moonlighting" lately on the air . . .