Channel 9 is going to take its time in choosing a sports anchor to replace Ken Broo, fired last week after three years of producing an often mundane and mostly predictable sportscast.
Broo's firing had been rumored for months in local broadcasting circles, though the timing seemed a bit odd coming in the first week of the pro football season.
Asked what sort of anchor the station was looking for, station president and general manager Dick Reingold said "someone who'll fit in with our team, is knowledgeable about sports and can convey that information in an interesting way."
In an age when ESPN, CNN/Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports Network and even pagers that give inning-by-inning baseball scores satisfy the cravings of most hard-core fans, putting together a local sportscast that will attract viewers is no easy feat.
Channel 4 and George Michael, love him or hate him, essentially have dominated the market for most of the past decade. Michael works for an NBC-owned station, gets more time in the 6 and 11 o'clock news than any of his competitors and uses the resources of his nationally syndicated "Sports Machine" to provide extra features for the station's morning and 5 p.m. newscasts.
Reingold insisted the other day that "resources are not a problem for us. We've got all the resources we need. Local news comes first here, and that holds true for weather and sports. That's got to be the emphasis."
If that's the case, perhaps it might be a good idea to bring someone aboard who at least is remotely familiar with the Washington area and its teams. That may have been a big part of the problem with Broo, who arrived after a long tour of duty in Cincinnati.
There are plenty of potential candidates who fit Reingold's job description, including the two veteran broadcasters handling sports at Channel 9. Frank Herzog is doing sportscasts with Ken Mease still doing weekday reporting and weekend anchoring. Either one would be a popular choice among their colleagues and many viewers who like the comfy old-slipper feeling each man provides.
If Reingold is looking outside the department, there are talented people out there who clearly might provide a spark.
Wally Bruckner at Channel 4 and Chick Hernandez at Channel 5 both have the same role Mease occupies at Channel 9--weekend men and solid field reporters. Both could easily take on main anchor responsibilities in any major market in America, and Bruckner is well-known to Reingold, who also had a run as Channel 4's news director a few years ago.
If Reingold is looking to go outside the market for a replacement, he has plenty of decent options, as well.
Bernie Smilovitz, a popular sports anchor in Detroit, is a Washington native who got his first TV exposure on Channel 9 in the late 1970s. He anchored at Channel 5 in the '80s until he left for Detroit. The major problem there might be getting out of a contract, which still has another year to run.
Scott Van Pelt, a native of Montgomery County and University of Maryland graduate, has become a mainstay at the Orlando-based Golf Channel as a reporter and more than occasionally irreverent anchor. With his delicious sense of humor, Van Pelt would offer an alternative to Michael's highlight driven show.
Jimmy Roberts, another Maryland graduate, is ESPN's lead golf reporter. He's got a terrific nose for news, produces wonderful features on a variety of subjects and has a comfortable on-air demeanor.
One more name said to be in the mix is Jess Atkinson, currently working as a sports anchor in Providence, R.I. Atkinson, a kicker at the University of Maryland and for the Washington Redskins, started his broadcasting career at Channel 4 and has done both sports and news.
If Reingold really wanted to move into uncharted territory, he could consider--dare we even say it--a woman. ESPN hired Chris McKendry away from Channel 7 three years ago, and she's blossomed as an anchor for the sports cable network's Sunday morning and occasional weekday SportsCenter shows. She's definitely a player, just like all of the above.