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Weekend anchor leaving WFLA for "USA Today Live'

It was, Mike Walter said, like one door closing and another, bigger door opening.

Walter works his last day as weekend anchor at WFLA-Ch. 8 on Sunday. After arriving at WFLA in 1997, he moved from weekend anchor to morning news anchor alongside Gayle Guyardo. He appeared to be on a fast track to the evening news.

But last fall, the station moved him back to weekends.

"He never clicked to the degree that you need an anchor to click," said Dan Bradley, vice president of news at WFLA. "There didn't seem to be a connection there. He just didn't make it."

So Walter tried another door.

Next week he begins appearing as a senior correspondent for USA Today Live, a video news service for the 22 TV stations owned by the Gannett chain, including WTSP-Ch. 10.

The tandem approach to news, with a newspaper and a TV station working together on the same story, is relatively new. MSNBC often interviews Washington Post reporters who talk briefly about stories they'll have in the next day's paper. And locally, WFLA-Ch. 8 and the Tampa Tribune, both owned by Media General, share the same building and occasionally share staffers.

But the link between USA Today and USA Today Live will be pronounced.

"We'll produce stories that compliment USA Today," Walter said from his office in Arlington, Va., sidestepping a question on the irony of his new work showing up on former rival WTSP. "We're trying to identify stories that have a good spin for TV.

"We'll expand on cover stories in the paper that day, and what we do will have an aspect where it can be localized, so a local station can add something of their own."

Already, Walter has spent time learning his new job, flying out to Arlington Monday to work during the week and flying back to Tampa for his final weekend's worth of broadcasts. Though he's tackling news for a larger network of stations in a larger city, he can't help feeling a little wistful.

"Am I disappointed things didn't work out at Channel 8?" Walter said. "Yeah. I just don't understand some things that happen in this business.

"But to be associated with a first-rate newspaper with a wide range of national stories is really exciting."

WFLA has also welcomed a new weather forecaster, hiring Mace Michaels from WINK-TV in Fort Myers. While he finishes his obligations at WINK, Michaels will only appear on WFLA's Saturday morning newscasts. In June, he'll move to the station's weekend evening newscasts, Bradley said.