New faces at news desk

TV: Channel 11 says goodbye to Dave Durian, Virg Jacques and Tony Pann.

July 31, 2000|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN TELEVISION WRITER

Several familiar faces will disappear from WBAL-TV (Channel 11) in the near future, as two longtime news anchors are being forced off the air and a weather forecaster is leaving Baltimore because of his grueling schedule here.

They include Virg Jacques, previously co-anchor for the 5 p.m. news; Dave Durian, whose final day as co-anchor of the noon broadcast was Friday and weather forecaster Tony Pann.

"There's very little security in TV and radio," Durian said. But while three departures at once seems a lot, Durian, a WBAL news anchor since 1982, said it wasn't planned that way. "It's kind of a coincidence of people's contracts coming up," he said.

In an interview, Bill Fine, WBAL's general manager, praised the work Durian, Pann and Jacques had done and said their departures are unrelated.

The decision to release Jacques surprised some in the WBAL newsroom. He's viewed as a workhorse, willing to report stories on the same days that he serves as an anchor. And the 5 o'clock news hour, with anchor Donna Hamilton, is the only one that draws more viewers than the station's chief competitor, WJZ (Channel 13) in the same time slot.

Station executives said they have already named his replacement - Jeff Pegues, now anchor for the 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. news shows for WSVN, the Fox station in Miami. Fine said WBAL wanted to build further on its lead in the 5 p.m. hour, which is helped by following Oprah Winfrey's popular talk show. "We think Jeff is really impressive," Fine said.

Jacques is now the co-anchor on the 5:30 p.m. broadcast, while Rod Daniels, the station's marquee male anchor, is handling the duties at 5 p.m. Pegues will take over the 5:30 p.m. anchor's spot and act as a night reporter for the 11 p.m. newscast once he wraps up his obligations in Miami, Fine said. Jacques' contract ended earlier this year; it's not clear if he'll remain at the station in a different capacity.

Although Durian, 54, is leaving the TV station, he'll remain as the drive-time morning host on WBAL-AM (1090) the NBC affiliate's sister radio station. His radio duties prevented the TV station from having a midday anchor who could also report during the morning, Fine said.

"Dave has done a spectacular job for us, but it's been in a very limited, part-time role," he said. The station needs "a 24-hour commitment," Fine said. "We want someone who can not only anchor but also serve as a reporter."

Durian's contract ends in late August. Dina Napoli, his former on-air partner, will anchor the noon show solo for now.

Meanwhile, Pann is moving to WCBS in New York City to do the weekend shift and some morning shows. His last day in Baltimore is Wednesday. "I hate to lose him," Fine said. "Tony is a great guy. He's gotten a marvelous opportunity to move to the nation's No. 1 market."

Pann, 35, said he would leave WBAL with mixed feelings because he'd hoped to juggle assignments so he could stay with a meteorology team he admires. But station officials wanted to keep him in his current roles, and Tom Tasselmyer remains the station's top weather forecaster.

Pann's exhausting schedule in Baltimore requires a daily routine starting at 3:45 a.m. After the morning shows, he leaves the station at 9 a.m., but returns in mid-afternoon to prepare for (and appear on) the 5 p.m. show. When Pann asked if he could do the morning and midday news shows, he was told he would have to take a pay cut, he said. He opted instead for a raise and reduced schedule.

"The split shift was getting kind of hard," said the trained meteorologist. "I probably would have stayed here had I been able to work it out."

A fourth departure is also possible.

Audrey Barnes, who co-anchors the morning news show, has been generating interest from a station in a smaller metropolitan region to become its primary female anchor. But it's not clear if she'll make the switch.

Barnes and Jacques declined to be interviewed for this story.

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