Ken Broo, the lead sports anchor at Channel 9 since April 1996, was fired yesterday by station president and general manager Dick Reingold, who offered no specific reason for dismissing a sportscaster who won two local Emmy awards in June.
"I'd prefer not to discuss that," Reingold said. "Ken did everything he could to keep us competitive. I'd just prefer to leave it at that."
Broo handled Channel 9's 11 o'clock show Wednesday night and was told of his dismissal yesterday, effective immediately. For now, Reingold said the station would move longtime Washington sportscaster Frank Herzog from his role as a reporter on the station's morning news show to handle weekday sportscasts at 6 and 11.
Broo's contract was scheduled to run out in October. He said last night that 10 days ago he told station officials he wanted to stay and asked if they wanted to keep him, but got no answer.
He said when he met with Reingold, he was not given any reason for his dismissal by the Gannett-owned station.
"There's nothing like getting fired in the middle of a hurricane," Broo said. "They complimented me for my hard work and handed me an envelope [with a check for his final weeks of his contract], and that was that. I didn't ask why. At that point, it wasn't important. They'd made up their minds.
"I think the station is struggling right now. I wouldn't think the ratings were a great factor. There are not many sports anchors in America who have an impact on the ratings. We're on at 6:52 p.m., and at that point, they're either watching you, or they're not."
Reingold said he had no permanent replacement in mind, and "we're really just beginning that process. I have no names, no preconceived notions."
Ken Mease, the station's veteran weekend anchor and reporter, handled last night's sportscasts and will continue on weekends. Herzog will step in full-time starting Monday, and, along with Mease, almost certainly will be a candidate to replace Broo.
Another possibility could be Bernie Smilovitz, a Washington native, former Channel 5 sports anchor and a popular sportscaster in Detroit, where he works for an NBC-affiliated station. Smilovitz could not be reached to comment last night.
Broo's departure also comes three weeks after former Redskins defensive end Charles Mann decided not to sign a new contract in order to pursue other ventures, including commercials, speaking appearances and even some movie or theatrical work.
Broo came to the station from Cincinnati, where he also worked as the radio voice of the Bengals in addition to handling sports for the local ABC affiliate. He replaced Warner Wolf, who was let go after an unsuccessful two-year run.
Broo will continue as a radio analyst for Maryland football games on WTEM the rest of the season and also will keep doing sports reports during weekday drive time on WHFS-FM.
While channels 9 and 7 chase Channel 4 both at 6 and 11 in what is generally considered close competition, ratings for the quarter hour when Broo went head to head against Channel 4's George Michael strongly favored Michael, especially during football season.