With election season in full swing, KSTP political correspondent Tom Hauser would appear to have one of the best journalism gigs in town. Just one problem: It's not the job he wanted.

Hauser, who has been serving as co-anchor for the ABC affiliate's morning show for a little more than a year, is being replaced at the end of this month by Art Barron, who worked at the station from 1991 to 1996. Hauser will return to covering politics full time.

"It's certainly not a bad consolation prize," Hauser said. "My preference would have been to continue anchoring, but politics is a lot of fun."

Looking strictly at the numbers, the switch is a bit of a puzzlement. KSTP's morning ratings have gone up steadily since Hauser joined Vineeta Sawkar at the desk, and the program recently took home a local Emmy.

But KSTP's philosophy is that viewers come for content first and talent second, which means that Hauser's popularity among early-bird watchers is less important than putting a hard-news veteran back in a demanding beat.

"There's no doubt that both Tom and Art are well qualified and have histories as good journalists," said Lindsay Radford, who took over as news director on Jan. 2. "But in this obviously heated political arena, Tom is invaluable."

There is the risk that a disappointed Hauser may take his skills elsewhere when his contract expires in September 2009.

"It'll be a challenge in our news department to find new ways to challenge Tom and keep him interested," Radford said. "We've made this decision and we'll have to live with the consequences."

Hauser said that the big political year will keep him plenty busy, but beyond that, he does hope to do more anchoring.

"It's contract to contract in this business," he said. "I've got to play it by ear."

For art's sake

One man's letdown is another man's homecoming. Barron, who left the Twin Cities to be main anchor at a station in Albuquerque, N.M., said he's stayed in touch with the Hubbards, owners of KSTP, throughout the years. He fondly remembered covering a story in 1994 about a wooden boat in northern Minnesota that was so interesting to Stanley Hubbard that he flew the crew up on his private plane and served as flight attendant.

Barron's no-fluff approach fits in nicely with KSTP's emphasis on hard news. "I'm more of a traditionalist," said Barron, who last worked in Miami. "I believe in a straightforward newscast."

Barron and Hauser have not spoken since the decision was announced last week, but Barron said he has the "utmost respect" for his colleague and said that Hauser is probably the best political reporter in the market.

Hauser's last day on morning duties will be Jan. 25, with Barron coming aboard the following week, just in time for February sweeps.

No business like show business

The Fox Business Network, a channel dedicated to those who need to know what's happening on Wall Street every nanosecond, is now available on Channel 106 for Comcast subscribers. FBN, launched Oct. 15, is currently in 30 million homes nationwide and features Neil Cavuto and a bevy of female correspondents that New York magazine labeled "business babes with brains."

It's also available on Ch. 359 for DirecTV users.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-743