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Struggling WMAR fires anchor

Brian Wood, an anchor on WMAR, Channel 2's evening newscasts for more than six years, was let go Thursday as part of a significant reshuffling of a TV news operation consistently at or near the bottom of local ratings.

Wood, who had been working without a contract since last year, is the second major newsroom figure to find himself without a job at WMAR this week. News director David Silverstein resigned Tuesday after less than 15 months on the job. In addition to Wood, two news producers and a sales secretary were laid off at the station.

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"Today we decided not to renew a contract with Brian Wood," WMAR Vice President and General Manager Bill Hooper said in an e-mail sent to station staff Thursday. "Brian is a true pro and will be missed in our newsroom. We wish him well on his next opportunity."

"It's not something that we wanted to do," Hooper said late yesterday afternoon, "but it's the way the world is right now."

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Wood began at WMAR in January 2002, after losing his weekend anchor position at Seattle's KIRO, Channel 7. At WMAR, he served as anchor and managing editor of the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, according to the station's Web site.

"I understand these are especially difficult times in an industry facing many challenges," Wood said yesterday. "I've had a wonderful experience at WMAR. I am proud of the work I did and the people I had the privilege of working with these past six years. My family and I have come to love Maryland, and we hope to stay."

Said co-anchor Mary Beth Marsden, who will mark 20 years at WMAR in May, "Brian is a good friend of mine. I have not worked with a better journalist or more professional employee."

WMAR has been stuck at the bottom of Baltimore's TV news ratings for much of the past three decades. Station management has tried numerous strategies to attract viewers.

In the late '90s, for instance, after bombing with a format emphasizing "family-sensitive" news, new management at the station pledged to concentrate on news and features with a more positive slant.

But none of the strategies has done much to change the station's ratings. Last month, the station's 11 p.m. weekday newscast averaged some 33,400 viewing households -- less than one-third of top-rated WBAL, Channel 11's average, and less than half of runner-up WJZ, Channel 13's. WMAR's viewership was down nearly 25 percent from November 2006.

WMAR, the oldest of Baltimore's commercial television stations, is owned by Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com


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