KDKA will make changes at the anchor desk next month, shuffling anchors Stacy Smith and Ken Rice to new assignments.
Rice will co-anchor the 11 p.m. news with Patrice King Brown, with Smith taking over at noon for Ray Tannehill, who retires in late July.
While a move from 11 p.m. to noon would be considered a demotion at most news stations, KDKA general manager Gary Cozen said that's not the case.
"Noon is an institution at KDKA," Cozen said. "When you own an audience as we do at noon, our interest is in protecting the audience. With Ray's retirement as the dean of Pittsburgh anchors, we're really fortunate to provide for a seamless passing of the baton to Stacy."
Cozen said Smith was "absolutely fine" with the changes and called him a "team player." However, Cozen, citing "station policy," would not allow Smith to be interviewed about his new duties.
WTAE'S FUTURE: WTAE general manager Jim Hefner said he won't name an acting news director when vice president of news Tom Petner departs next month. Hefner said assistant news director Michelle Butt will oversee the news operation while a search for Petner's replacement is conducted.
Hefner, once a news director himself, said the top newsroom job is more difficult today than it's ever been.
"That person has a lot of pressure on them; there's a hell of a lot more competition," Hefner said. "You have to be a standard bearer of a journalist as well as trying to attract an audience."
Although a departing news director may seem like inside baseball to TV viewers, news directors often hire or promote their own talent, which could mean changes -- maybe major, maybe minor -- down the road at WTAE.
Hefner expects stability and called Petner a valued contributor to the station in his 61/2 years as news director.
"I hope he does real well," Hefner said. "He's been very important to us and will be difficult to replace."
WQED NEWS: All was not talk of the grand future at WQED's annual meeting Thursday night.
During a public comment period, two people voiced concerns about WQED. Glenn Walsh of Mt. Lebanon said WQED is not acting in the public interest by simulcasting on WQEX. Rich Klivans of Mt. Lebanon expressed frustration that WQED-FM isn't airing several NPR classical music programs.
More news from the station's annual board meeting Thursday night:
WQED will realign its fiscal year to run from October to October beginning in 2000.
Executive director of production Carolyn Wean, executive director of communications B.J. Leber and treasurer and chief financial officer Robert F. Petrilli were given the additional title of vice president to signify them as part of the company's senior management team.
Rick Sebak will produce two new national specials for PBS next year. The topics have not yet been determined. A third special, a 1998 performance by Spyro Gyra at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, also will air nationally in 2000.
SURRENDER? The Military Channel, aired locally on WNEU and some TCI cable systems, went off the air Tuesday after a contract dispute between the network and its satellite provider. It returned to WNEU Friday and is expected back soon on TCI's leased access channel.
"BUFFY" AIRDATE: The WB has scheduled the season finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to air at 8 p.m. July 13. "Graduation Day Part Two" originally was scheduled to air May 25 but was pulled out of "sensitivity" concerns following the Columbine High School shootings.
WB CEO Jamie Kellner apologized to "Buffy" fans for the delay. The episode aired in Canada, allowing bootleg tapes to be traded. Irate fans also posted it on the Internet.
"If we erred, it was on the side of caution," Kellner said.
The network has not yet scheduled "Earshot," the first "Buffy" episode pulled in April. In "Earshot," Buffy stops an attack on her classmates at school.