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Channel 4 fills sports slot

WIVB-TV has hired an Elmira sportscaster to fill the vacancy created by the recent departure of veteran anchor/reporter Paul Peck, Channel 4 news director Joseph D. Schlearth announced.

Steve Vesey, sports director at WETM, will report to work at the Channel 4 sports desk Monday, according to Schlearth. Viewers will see him on the air the following week.

Peck's departure earlier this month, and the upcoming departure of sports director John Murphy would have decimated the sports department at Channel 4.

"It was an unusual situation," said Schlearth, who declined to elaborate. "I don't have an exit date for Murph but we expect that he will be spending time with Steve to help ease the transition."

Murphy has yet to publicly announce his plans, but sources close to the situation indicate he will leave WIVB by June to start a multimedia job with the Buffalo Bills.

Peck, who produced sportscasts for former Channel 4 sports director Van Miller, had worked at the station for 24 years and became a sports anchor in 1988. He is now a financial professional for AXA Advisors in Williamsville.

Vesey, a graduate of Ohio University, became sports director at WETM in March 2007, after working there as weekend sports anchor and reporter. Vesey and his wife are expecting their third child.

"Here's the thing with Steve," said Schlearth. "His wife is nine months pregnant, and this is a huge move for them. I'm very excited for him and a little nervous for his wife. She could give birth at any time."

Schlearth would not say whether Vesey would take over as sports director when Murphy leaves, but confirmed the station is already looking to fill a second sports slot.

Murphy's new position will be a continuation of a long history in Buffalo sports. He succeeded Rick Azar as WKBW-TV's sports anchor in 1989, becoming sports director in 1992. In March 2008, Murphy joined WIVB as sports director, replacing Dennis Williams.

Murphy was sports director for WBEN-AM 930 from 1984 to 1992, and the radio color analyst for the Bills in the 1980s and from 1994 to 2003. He took over the play-by-play duties from Van Miller in 2004.

Brittni Smallwood, who most recently worked as a morning show co-anchor and reporter at WETM, also will start Monday at Channel 4. Smallwood likely will not see air time until later this month, when she will be on the station's morning show, "Wake Up," as a reporter, Schlearth said. Smallwood will join "Wake Up" reporter Nalina Shapiro. Reporter Tony Congi has been filling in three days a week on "Wake Up."

"It's really good to have two in-the-field reporters," said Schlearth. "We'll be hitting on both cylinders again, going live in the morning, covering breaking news and breaking weather."

What has taken so long?

"It's finding the right people," said Schlearth. "It's really nice to be up to speed with reporters and anchors, though we still have a sports slot to fill when Murphy moves on."