KIRO-TV today announced that Steve Raible will become the station's main anchor when Channel 7 moves the early-evening news from 7 to 6:30 starting Monday.
Raible, 39, will be the sole common denominator in three newscasts, but the station will eventually name a female co-anchor to replace Susan Hutchison, who left the station in June when her contract expired, said News Director Bill Lord.
Hutchison's replacement could come from KIRO's present staff, but management is also looking elsewhere, inside and outside the Seattle TV market, Lord said.
Meantime, starting Labor Day, Raible will be joined by Nerissa Williams at 5 and 11 p.m. and by veteran Gary Justice, who was Hutchison's co-anchor for many years, in the important revival of the 6:30 newscast.
"Steve is universally respected by our viewers," Lord said in a written statement. "They like him and trust him. . . . Our research shows that Steve is Seattle's most popular male anchor. I am convinced that he will continue to grow in stature and popularity."
Raible's contract with KIRO is up for renewal this month, and he said he intends to stay with the station. "This has really been a terrific place for me," Raible said today. "We've been through some tough times and now we're really headed up and I want to be a part of that. I see nothing but good in the future."
The time-period and anchor changes end an interminable era that began with a bad decision five years ago, when KIRO signed a contract with a syndicator to broadcast reruns of "The Cosby Show" at 6:30 - sandwiched between "The CBS Evening News" at 6 and local news at 7.
At the time of the deal, "Cosby" was one of the hottest shows on television. But in reruns it did poorly in the ratings and the five-year pact locked KIRO into an incongruous news schedule.
While "Cosby" alone can't be blamed, the five-year syndication deal coincided with the demise of KIRO from a strong competitor to a weak third-place news station.
Network-affiliate competitors KING-TV and KOMO-TV stuck with the traditional two-hour block of news: local at 5, network at 6, local at 6:30. And they have dominated the ratings.
The affable Raible, who lives with his wife, Sharon Raible, on a farm near Enumclaw, takes to a newly leveled playing field after 11 years at the station. He has worked nowhere else in broadcasting and spent much of his KIRO career doing sports on radio and TV. But he also has served as co-host - with Hutchison - of a magazine and has anchored various daytime newscasts.
Recently, Raible has played an increasing role in the important evening hours. When the station launched a radical makeover last February called "out of the box" and deployed an "ensemble" of half a dozen anchors, Raible emerged as a prominent talent among the equals.
But he has always been a prominent player, if not always a star. His broadcasting career evolved naturally from sports.
A native of Louisville, Raible attended Georgia Tech, graduating in 1976, when he was drafted in the second round as a wide receiver for the original Seattle Seahawks squad.
That first season he wrote a series of stories for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer - a rookie's diary - and he fast got a reputation as a self-deprecatingly funny player who was always good for a quote.
Raible got involved in charitable causes and public speaking - by one count, he was making 100 appearances a year - and by the end of the 1978 season he was filling in for Wayne Cody on KIRO-AM as the host of "Sportsline."
In 1982, football injuries, including a punctured lung, had mounted, and Raible decided to retire from football to pursue a full-time broadcasting career.
He joined KIRO as a color commentator for Seahawks play-by-play on radio, as a second-string sports anchor on TV and as co-host, with Hutchison, of "PM Magazine," which aired at 6:30.
The next year, KIRO launched "Eyewitness News Afternoon" at 4, and the same team was tapped.
"As soon as I got in the building here I learned all sorts of things," Raible said. "I did have my eyes originally on sports but the more and more I got into it, the more I came to appreciate the news part of the operation."
The early news show evolved over some years into a 4:30 newscast before being canceled, but Raible was still involved in sports and eventually replaced Cody as the lead sports anchor.
Changes since February have meant less visibility for Justice, who will replace Raible at noon, joining Monica Hart. But Justice continues to play a leadership role behind the scenes. He was interim news director for several months before Lord was hired, and he was a stabilizing force during KIRO's greatest turmoil.