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Van Nest to anchor Ch. 10 evening news

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV/Media Critic
Published July 13, 2004

WTSP-Ch. 10 morning anchor Heather Van Nest will move to the evening shows next week, replacing veteran anchor Sue Zelenko as the station's top female anchor.

Van Nest, who came to WTSP as morning and noon anchor in 2002, will join Reginald Roundtree on the station's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. She follows Zelenko, who left in April after 13 years at WTSP to focus on her family and an upcoming marriage.

The move brings other anchor changes to the CBS affiliate, with afternoon anchor Mario Diaz moving to WTSP's Mornings Around the Bay a.m. show and its noon newscast. Longtime sports anchor Dave Wirth will take Diaz's spot on the Life Around the Bay 4 p.m. show. All changes take effect Monday.

The shifting of anchor jobs leaves two positions open: one anchor spot opposite Diaz on the morning and noon shows and Wirth's former job as a weekend sports anchor. Marty Matthews, an 11-year veteran at the station who often filled in for Zelenko, will remain on Life Around the Bay at 4 p.m.

"We saw hundreds of tapes . . . held dozens of auditions, and (Van Nest) floated to the top," said Pete Nikiel, director of marketing and promotion at WTSP. "She and Reggie had good chemistry together."

* * *

After weeks spent working off camera after an April arrest on "doctor shopping" allegations, WFTS-Ch. 28 investigative reporter Mike Mason appeared on air Friday to deliver a detailed story on the problems plaguing the new Crosstown Expressway construction project.

Aside from a story aired a week after his arrest, Friday's report was Mason's first appearance on camera in the weeks since he was charged with visiting numerous doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for opiate-based painkillers, according to WFTS general manager Bill Carey.

Carey would not say whether the appearances indicated Mason's case might be resolved soon, though he indicated the reporter is developing stories for future broadcasts. Mason referred questions about his status to Carey.

"(Friday's story) was the continuation of an important investigation Mike began long ago," said Carey. "He's still working his way through the legal process . . . (but) we made a decision to bring him in on this."

In April, Mason's attorney suggested the charges may be wrapped up in an attempt by Tampa police to retaliate for Mason's critical reporting on local officers. Police then denied such a connection.

A hearing on Mason's charges is scheduled Aug. 2, said Pam Bondi, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

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