May 04, 1992 12:00 PM

The cohost of Dateline with Jane Pauley, NBC’s latest news-magazine show, admits that one of his favorite flicks is Broadcast News, the cynical comedy in which the game of musical anchorchairs went to the good-looking smoothy. Ironically, Phillips, 37, boasts a matinee-idol handsomeness tempered only by a shock of hair that doesn’t take direction readily. But the Texas-born, St. Louis-reared journalist feels “looks should not ever be a distraction. When I was a correspondent, I never wore flashy clothes. It’s important for the viewer to connect with the reporter—you don’t want to call attention to yourself.”

That may be, but an attention-grabbing first name fit for a movie star came not from central casting but from great-grandfather Stonewall Jackson Phillips. Stone himself moved north into Yankee territory to attend Yale (class of 1977), where he was both a philosophy major and quarterback of the football team. Then came a stint at an Atlanta TV station and 12 years at ABC News, including 5½ on 20/20, where he made his mark as an investigative reporter. Phillips, wife Debra, 35, and son Streeter, 4, now live comfortably on his reported $2.8 million, four-year contract. “If [looks] keep me in prime time, baby, hello, Hollywood!” he jokes. Referring to the current major-network anchors, Phillips adds, “Look at Peter and Tom and Dan. All three are very attractive. But you’ve got to be able to do it. If you can’t do it, it’s going to be goodbye, Charlie.”

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