LOS ANGELES -- Channel 7 management, bracing for possible tough economic times in what WJLA president Mike Moore calls "a challenging economic environment," has warned employees of a probable 10 percent reduction in the current work force of 220 ...

Although the cuts are due to be made "across the board," most of the 90-plus staffers in the station's news department fear news will bear the brunt of the reductions ...

No matter where the ax finally falls, Washington-area viewers will probably find some old, familiar faces missing from WJLA by the time the leaves begin to turn this fall ...

The cutbacks could begin before September and would be completed by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins at the Allbritton Communications-owned station ...

Last Tuesday, the station announced the resignation of 32-year-old news director Bob Reichblum. He and Moore conceded in public statements that the news director had quarreled with the senior management team currently conducting an intensive budget review at the station over what Reichblum felt would be unfair cuts in the news department's program and personnel budget in any proposed "restructuring" ...

Reichblum had come to WJLA 22 months ago from WDIV in Detroit. During his first year on the job he had already reduced the department's expenditures by $500,000 and cut at least eight employees from the payroll ...

According to his resignation statement last Tuesday, Reichblum intended to remain with the station for 30 days. But on Wednesday, after reports of the rift were published, Moore told Reichblum to instead clear out his desk by noon and, according to the news director, "said I should work the rest of my 30 days' notice at home" ...

Moore then appointed Bob Casazza, vice president for marketing and promotion at the station, and a member of the budget review team, to be acting manager of the news department. No interim news director will be named ...

Managing editor Lois Dyer, one of four news department executives named by Reichblum to run the department in a reorganization last winter, will be responsible for day-to-day news operations until a successor to Reichblum has been chosen ...

Moore and Casazza met with the WJLA news staff after the 6 p.m. broadcast on Thursday for half an hour to field questions about the interim operations. Reports indicate that the exchanges were polite but that tensions were evident ...

Moore told the staff the major budget decisions will have been made by Aug. 15 and that shortly thereafter he expects details on personnel cuts will be made available ...

Rumors have been rife at the station ever since word first surfaced that Reichblum had gone to the mat with the restructuring group over various proposals that would affect the news department ...

Moore on Thursday addressed at least one such rumor directly when he assured staffers the ratings-poor 11 p.m. news was not going to be cut. There were even hints that the newscast might soon be beefed up to make it more competitive with front-runner Channel 4 and Channel 9 ...

A more likely prospect is a change in the 5-to-6 p.m. news schedule, which currently includes Paul Berry's "In Person" half-hour at 5, followed by the first half of a one-hour newscast with Renee Poussaint and Jim Harriott leading into "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" at 6:30 ...

Reichblum had reportedly been unhappy with the "infotainment" format of the Berry show and, as one of the compromises under consideration by the belt-tighteners, would have been willing to drop the program ...

Rumors persist at the station that some change in the late afternoon news block can be expected, regardless of the future of "In Person" ...

Meanwhile, veteran on-air reporters and anchors are waiting warily for the August decisions. Several longtime reporters expect to be offered severance packages to walk away from long-term contracts ...

And both Berry and commentator-anchor Susan King are up for contract renewals soon ...

The future of several camera crews will depend on the programming decisions that must first be made ...

At the Thursday meeting, Moore tried to reassure his troops that a quality newscast was still the goal of the station management but admitted that things are going to be a lot tighter in the foreseeable future.

The well-liked Reichblum, meanwhile, has reportedly already received inquiries from at least two networks and is not expected to be out of work for long ... Now This CBS took over the semi-annual press tour here this weekend. "CBS This Morning" executive producer Eric Sorenson started off with a sound but indirect thrashing of NBC's "Today" show.

At one point, talking about the long process of getting morning-show viewers to change lifelong habits, he said:

"What {viewers} don't see when they tune in to CBS is all this sort of cloying, this desperate -- you know, the insincere smiles, the tent full of people on the set who are, you know, grasping for recognition and for love" ...

"This Morning" viewers, instead, Sorenson contended, "see a very comfortable host team that's doing their job. They see a weather guy {Mark McEwen} that comes in and doesn't, you know, wear the banana hat, but by the same token, has a personality and is enjoyable"...

Co-anchor Harry Smith followed Sorenson with a mild kick in the pants for his former partner, Kathleen Sullivan, who was supplanted in the spring by Paula Zahn. Smith said "the comfort level {on the show} is better with Paula than with Kathleen. We get along better ... Are we better off than we were six months ago? Yeah" ...

Ted Turner and Jane Fonda kept tongues wagging Friday as the actress stayed close to the cable mogul for 3 1/2 hours while programming promises were being made on behalf of his CNN, TNT, CNN Headline News and TBS and he sailed through a breezy lunchtime speech that could have been ghosted by Toad of Toad Hall ...

(At one point, defending his recent puffball interview with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on CNN, Turner said, "Maybe Sam Donaldson would have done a better job -- but he didn't get the interview") ...

Janis Froelich of the St. Petersburg Times sat close enough to the lovebirds during the lunch to note they "sometimes held hands, sometimes they linked arms and nuzzled, sometimes they played kneesies, all the while keeping a running, courteous dialogue with one another."

Fonda was dressed in a pink silk suit so short she kept tugging at the skirt and "had a few snags in her stockings" and Turner wore a blue blazer and red power tie. When Catherine Crier, the Texas judge turned controversial CNN co-anchor, stood before the critics, Fonda meowed to Turner: "She looks like a Kennedy" ... Short Takes CBS executives suspect they may have a new prize entry for midseason with the relative success of "Northern Exposure," which debuted last Thursday and came very close to tying a rerun of "L.A. Law" with a 9.5 rating and an 18 share. The second episode, which was shown to critics here yesterday, is even better ...

CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky said yesterday that the network is "more sensitive" about language on the air these days -- despite complaints from the TV critics that in the pilot for the new "Uncle Buck" sitcom (which will kick off the CBS fall schedule at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17) the first words the national audience will hear come from a 6-year-old girl complaining that something or other "sucks" ...

Sagansky pointed out that "Uncle Buck" (Kevin Meaney) quickly scolds the girl for her language but that didn't quiet the critics among the critics. Later, the program chief, who said he wouldn't order a change in the script before the program premieres, promised that "you won't hear her saying that word again" on the series ...

"Uncle Buck" stars Meaney as a crude-talking uncle who is raising his late brother's three children. As the grandmother, Audrey Meadows almost steals the pilot before his squinty eyes. But that's another story ...