NEWS- Beth's back: Duffy retakes the anchor seat

NBC29's former morning anchor, Beth Duffy, is coming back on the air– and going head-to-head with her old station.

Starting April 16, Duffy will be back in the news business at noon and 5pm on the Newsplex's CBS19, and a week later, she'll anchor a new 6:30 local news program that leads into Katie Couric's CBS News at 7pm.

"I'm excited to get back into the buzz of a newsroom where there's something different every day," says Duffy, who's been on a broadcast hiatus since she signed off NBC29 last March searching for hours that didn't require a 2am wake-up call and 6pm bedtime.

Shortly after leaving NBC29, she took a sales job with the new TV stations in town, Gray Television's Newsplex. A year later, her non-compete contract has ended. "Initially, when I made the change [to marketing], I didn't think I would make the change back," says Duffy, who stresses that she came to the Newsplex to do sales, not news.

Then the opportunity came to go back on the air at times that didn't require the really early or late hours so typical of television.

Duffy will co-anchor the news at noon with Bo Sykes. At 5pm, she'll be on the air with Stephanie Hockridge. "Two females at 5pm is done in D.C.," says Duffy. "The audience is mostly women, and we'll try to veer toward that audience."

The new 6:30 news is for people who don't get home until 6. "It allows them a chance to catch the local news," she says.

The Duffy lead-in could be helpful to UVA alum Couric, says Newsplex general manager Roger Burchette. "It's a chance to watch two of Charlottesville's favorite women back to back," he says.

Over at Duffy's old station, former colleague Kristina Cruise has been anchoring the noon and 5pm newscasts and seems ready to go up against a friend and fellow blonde. [At least until her status became less clear; see lead story–editor.] 

"I think it's great because competition is great for everyone," says Cruise. "It's going to push me to the next level. It's good for the community, and I believe our product is really solid."

At presstime, it's uncertain whether Cruise will remain in the anchor desk. "Laura French's return to the air [from maternity leave] will impact our line-up," says NBC29 news director Neal Bennett. And it has been subsequently reported on that Sharon Gregory will take Cruise's noon and 5pm shows.

"I have the utmost respect for Beth," says Bennett. "I consider her a friend... Competition is still a new thing to Charlottesville. It's fairly common that anchors change stations. I wish her luck– and I hope she doesn't beat us."

And after seven years of anchoring for NBC29, what if Duffy slips and forgets she's now at CBS19? Not likely, says Duffy. "I've been working with CBS19 for a year now. That's my vernacular."

News anchor Beth Duffy returns to the air April 16 at her old station's rival, CBS19.