AN ARTICLE ON LOCAL TV NEWS TEAMS IN TODAY'S TV WEEK, WHICH WAS PRINTED IN ADVANCE, MISINTERPRETED RATINGS INFORMATION CONCERNING THE MONDAY-THROUGH-FRIDAY VIEWERSHIP OF LATE NEWS TELECASTS. RATINGS INFORMATION FOR MAY INDICATES THE FOLLOWING NUMBERS OF LOCAL VIEWERS: 271,000 FOR WRC, 160,000 FOR WJLA, AND 152,000 FOR WUSA, ALL AT 11 P.M.; AND 220,000 FOR WTTG AT 10 P.M. (PUBLISHED 08.29.99)

Even in Washington, the nation's eighth-largest television market, newscasters are not often anchored to their colleagues very long.

Newsman Gordon Peterson has spent nearly 30 years on the evening anchor desk at WUSA, but the 6 and 11 p.m. teams have been together only three years.

At WJLA, Kathleen Matthews may have more than two decades of experience as an anchor, but she and veteran newscaster Maureen Bunyan (formerly of WUSA) have been teamed at 6 p.m. only since April.

And at the Fox affiliate, WTTG, although Sue Palka has forecast the weather for more than a decade, the addition of Mike Landess to the 10 p.m. news desk in January makes it a very new group.

So for a kinetic field, it's notable when a team of two newscasters, a sportscaster and a meteorologist can maintain a professional on-air relationship for a decade, said Don Fitzpatrick, a network headhunter and the editor of ShopTalk, a television industry newsletter.

But that's what has happened at WRC, the NBC owned-and-operated station, whose most-recent hire at the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts came in 1989 in the person of Doreen Gentzler. On July 12 that year, Gentzler joined station stalwarts Jim Vance at the news desk, George Michael on sports and Bob Ryan explaining the weather.

"My previous record was four years at the NBC station in Cleveland," said Gentzler, who has worked at five other stations nationwide. "I didn't have any idea I'd still be here 10 years later. . . . I had no idea I'd be so comfortable with my team. That has not been true at previous stations for me.

"I'm not trying to give a commercial or promo for these guys," she added. "The three of them are real professionals and the best at what they do."

The group does not spend much time together outside of work, and they have wildly different interests: Vance enjoys motorcycles (he was touring on one and unavailable for comment), Michael breeds horses, Ryan is a science and weather aficionado and Gentzler likes to spend her free time with her family.

"If there is any one key, it is that we all care deeply about what we do," said Ryan, a one-time "Today" show forecaster and a WRC meteorologist since 1980. "And," he added pointedly, "nobody wants to do everyone else's job."

Michael, who joined WRC the same year as Ryan, said that respectful attitude is vital to maintaining a team. "Our job is to help each other look good," he said. "I worked in some places were everybody was about, `Me, me, me.' "

"I know what Vance likes and doesn't like," Michael added. "I know when to turn to him for a reaction. I know it sounds ridiculous -- I mean, we try to help each other do better. I don't mean to improve the performance, but to [make] the other person look good."

As a term describing their working relationship, chemistry is perhaps elusive and undefinable, but there is one solid indicator of why the WRC quartet stays together. In May, as it has for much of the last decade, Nielsen Media Research found that the NBC affiliate ranked first for viewership in the weekday early- and late-evening local news categories. WUSA and WJLA followed, with WTTG ranked last for late local news; the Fox affiliate has only a 10 p.m. newscast on weeknights.

Despite its high rating and in light of its accomplishment of consistency, WRC still has some catching up to do.

In Jacksonville, Fla., WJXT, a CBS affiliate owned by the Post-Newsweek Co., features a 6 p.m. news team whose "junior" member has clocked in for 18 years. The weatherman there is in his 38th year on the desk.

WUSA Channel 9

While always a CBS affiliate, this 50-year-old station was sold to Post-Newsweek in 1950 and called WTOP. In 1978, it switched owners and became WDVM. In 1986, the station came under Gannett ownership and changed its call letters to WUSA. The current lineups, with each anchor's first year at the station and the start date of his or her current role:

At 5 p.m., in place since February 1999

News

Mike Buchanan 1970 1999

J.C. Hayward 1972 1972

Sports

Ken Broo 1996 1996

Weather

Doug Hill 1984 1987

At 6 and 11 p.m., in place since 1996

News

Gordon Peterson 1969 1971

Andrea Roane 1981 1995

Sports

Ken Broo 1996 1996

Weather

Doug Hill 1984 1993/1989

WJLA Channel 7

The station signed on in 1947, became an ABC affiliate the following year and was known as WMAL. The call letters changed to WJLA when Allbritton Communications bought the station in 1977. The current lineups, with each anchor's first year at the station and the start date of his or her current role (Maureen Bunyan is a solo anchor at 11 p.m.):

At 5 p.m., in place since February 1999

News

Kathleen Matthews 1976 1991

Del Walters 1985 1999

Sports

Rene Knott 1992 1992

Weather

Alexandra Steele 1998 1999

At 6 and 11 p.m., in place since April 1999

News

Maureen Bunyan 1999 1999

Kathleen Matthews 1976 1999

Sports

Rene Knott 1992 1992

Weather

Jeff Gilbert 1991 1996

WTTG Channel 5

The station, broadcasting in 1945, was the first to operate in Washington, D.C. First a part of the DuMont network, it eventually became part of Metromedia. Fox purchased it in 1986. The current lineups, with each anchor's first year at the station and the start date of his or her current role:

At 10 p.m., in place since January 1999

News

Tracey Neale 1994 1994

Mike Landess 1999 1999

Sports

Brett Haber 1997 1997

Weather

Sue Palka 1984 1987

WRC Channel 4

The station, which went on air in June 1947, always has been owned and operated by NBC. The current lineups, with each anchor's first year at the station and the start date of his or her current role:

At 5 p.m., in place since 1992

News

Doug McKelway 1992 1992

Susan Kidd 1983 1988

Sports

George Michael 1980 1980

Weather

Bob Ryan 1980 1980

At 6 and 11 p.m., in place since 1989

News

Jim Vance 1969 1972

Doreen Gentzler 1989 1989

Sports

George Michael 1980 1980

Weather

Bob Ryan 1980 1980