Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Cooke to take over
KITV anchor spot

By Tim Ryan


After nearly five years of anchoring the lowest-rated news program in Hawaii, KHNL's Dan Cooke next year will move to No. 2-rated -- and climbing -- KITV-4, replacing Howard Dashefsky.

Mug shot In the biggest news personality shakeup since Cooke left ABC-affiliate KITV in 1995 for KHNL, Cooke will anchor the 6 and 10 p.m. news as early as January, earning about $250,000 a year, sources said.

That will keep him the second highest-paid anchor after KHON's Joe Moore. Cooke's salary will be the combined pay of Dashefsky and former KITV reporter Tina Shelton who this summer joined KHON, a source said.

Cooke, 43, who was not immediately available for comment, receives about $200,000 a year at KHNL. At KITV, he'll rejoin the team he left in 1994: sports anchor Robert Kekaula, co-anchor Paula Akana and weather reporter Shari Shima.

Cooke will stay at KHNL at least through the November ratings period, said John Fink, station president and general manager. As for his replacement at the NBC affiliate, a KHNL official said the choice "is wide open at least for now."

Mug shot Cooke is the lone anchor on the 6 and 10 p.m. news programs. Barbara Wallace co-anchors the 5 p.m. weekday news with him.

Fink said the station will look at whether to replace Cooke with a single or multiple anchors. There's "no definite date" when Cooke will leave. A clause in his contract allows him to exit early if the station is being sold, which it is.

KITV executives, including general manager Mike Rosenberg and news director Wally Zimmermann, declined discussing Cooke's return and Dashefsky's removal.

Rosenberg confirmed that KITV is having "discussions with Dan about joining us."

As for Dashefsky, Rosenberg said "at some point in time we (will) have to reassess Howard's role."

The move is prompted by market research, Rosenberg said. "Everything we know through our market research is that Dan is a very popular fellow" with viewers, he said.

Zimmerman said that the station is "working on" Cooke's return, and "talking about all the possibilities" with Dashefsky, regarding his future at the station.

"If we go after a person we want them to come work here as soon as he can," Zimmerman said.

A KITV reporter said he was "stunned" by the news.

"No one had heard a thing about it," said the reporter, requesting anonymity. "Even though we've got the No. 2 ratings sewed up and are climbing, (station owner) Hearst-Argyle is a very aggressive company."

Some KITV reporters wondered about the sense in replacing the anchor of the No. 2-rated station, KITV, with the anchor of the last place station, KHNL.

Dashefsky, who has spent four years at KITV, learned about his replacement Friday afternoon .

The news was "a line drive that came out of nowhere and hit me in the gut; total surprise," said Dashefsky, 39. "I laughed when he said Dan was coming back, not out of anger but surprise.

"I take pride in what we've done at KITV since I became anchor. I worked hard and did my job. The ratings have gone up and we're a solid No. 2 and climbing."

He said he wasn't told why he's being replaced and he didn't ask. "I don't think it's a matter of the (ratings)," he said. "This is a business. David Wells threw a perfect game in the World Series for the New York Yankees and even he was traded."

Dashefsky has no immediate plans. "There are lots of options," he said. "Adversity presents opportunity so you have to be positive."

Fink also remained positive, saying that although the station's news program remains fourth "KHNL has changed the way the market place operates, doing more on-location news reporting and better weather coverage. ... We will use this situation as the great opportunity it is to move forward."

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