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Channel 8 Chief Gone for Good?

Antonitis, who’s filling in for Best, wouldn’t say when or if Best would return.

Reached at home last week, Best also wouldn’t comment on his future with the station. “People can say whatever they want,” he says. “I asked for and was granted a leave of absence.”

Corporate executives were in Richmond last week, people at the station say, and informed staff that there would be no major changes in personnel and programming and that the station would undergo some technical and on-air cosmetic improvements.

Best, tapped to manage the Richmond station in November 1994 shortly after Young bought WRIC from Nationwide Communications Inc., was regarded an “absentee manager,” insiders say, who wasn’t around much when major news broke. Some have also criticized Best for sacrificing news content to squeeze in more commercials.

The catalyst came when Best spent more time dealing with personal issues during Hurricane Isabel than the corporate brass would have liked, insiders say. A tree struck his house in Goochland County. Best and Antonitis refused to comment.

“They are well into the search for a replacement,” says one local broadcasting manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

— Scott Bass and Deveron Timberlake

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