KTLA fired news anchor Mark Mester on Thursday afternoon, days after he was suspended following an off-script segment where he criticized the station’s handling of co-anchor Lynette Romero’s abrupt departure, according to multiple sources. station employees.
The station’s general manager, Janene Drafs, announced the dismissal with a brief speech during a meeting in the newsroom around 1:15 p.m., saying: “[Mester] is no longer at KTLA5,” staff members present for the announcement told The Times on Thursday.
KTLA’s website no longer lists Mester on its list of reporters and anchors.
Last week, KTLA announced that Romero, a longtime anchor of KTLA’s popular weekend morning show, left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, sparking widespread outrage and criticism.
“After nearly 24 years, Lynette Romero, our friend Lynette, has decided to no longer present our weekend morning news,” Pete Saiers, the station’s news director, wrote in a statement read by the reporter. Entertainment Sam Rubin. during a September 14 segment.
“KTLA management had hoped that she would stay here her entire career, and KTLA worked hard to make that happen,” Rubin added. “But Lynette decided to move on to another opportunity elsewhere. Lynette, we wish you good luck, we miss you and we thank you for all you have done for KTLA. … On behalf of everyone here, we wish you and your family the best.
Saiers later said that management had hoped Romero would record a farewell message for viewers, but she refused.
According to station sources who asked to remain anonymous, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to work an anchor position on weekdays so she could spend more time with her family. but was told there was no opening. She was reportedly hired at KNBC, NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate, as the weekday morning show anchor, sources said.
Romero did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
On Saturday’s weekend morning show, Mester, Romero’s co-anchor, left the script with an emotional speech. He apologized, on behalf of the station, to viewers and said the handling of Romero’s exit “was rude, cruel, inappropriate and we are truly sorry for that.”
He later apologized to Romero, whom he called “his best friend.”
“You didn’t deserve this, it was a mistake, and we hope you find the courage in your hearts to forgive us,” Mester said, his voice cracking at times, in a monologue that lasted more than four minutes. alongside three of his colleagues. .
Many viewers had applauded Mester’s off-the-cuff message, but shortly after his defense of Romero, Mester was suspended, drawing even more criticism for KTLA’s handling of the situation.
“Mark was 100% right” one user tweeted. “It’s like you’re begging to lose all your viewers with this kind of behavior.”
However, newsroom employees witnessed a different scenario and alleged that Mester, who joined KTLA in 2014, breached their trust.
Staff members said the producers wrote a script for Mester to read to send Romero along with photos and clips from his shows, which Mester ignored during the segment. He had also rented a plane with a banner to fly over the station with the message “We love you Lynette”. Mester had offered producers to include footage of the aircraft in the segment, but was turned down.
Before stepping on set for the Saturday segment, staff members said they saw Mester pacing around with an angry look. He had alerted his social media followers that he planned to speak about Romero’s departure on the show that morning.
After his segment, people in the newsroom said they saw Mester ignore management’s requests to come into their office for a meeting. At one point, several staff members recalled Mester telling one of the news directors to ‘shut up’ and saying he refused to leave the building when asked to do so. .
During the exchange with management, Mester allegedly shouted obscenities, which could be heard by other staffers in the newsroom.
Mester did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Times on Thursday.
Several station sources said it was common knowledge that staff members were concerned about Mester’s temper and what was described as his “disrespectful” behavior towards women and had complained to management.
“You wouldn’t believe the tantrums and the weird things that triggered it,” said a longtime newsroom employee. “You are constantly afraid of saying the wrong thing.”
A longtime presenter at the station said he hoped viewers would separate Romero’s choice to leave from Mester’s behavior, which was “unprofessional” and “ruthless”.
“It was supposed to be shown on a warm, loving, grateful script. It was awesome, and [Romero] I would have loved that,” the presenter said of the farewell track the producers had prepared. “Mark hijacked that and made it about him.”
Veteran KTLA reporters said it’s common for newsroom managers not to give airtime to talent who leaves for a competing station.
“Our industry has a tradition of quickly and quietly releasing team members who move on to competition,” said Ashley Regan, producer of KTLA’s “Weekend Morning News,” written in a statement posted on Twitter after Mester’s outburst. “We may not like the practice, but we know not to take it personally.”
Romero joined KTLA in 1998 and won several local Emmy Awards, including one in 2006 for his reporting on the Latino community. She was co-anchor of “KTLA Prime-News” and later co-anchor of “KTLA Weekend Morning News”, which was among the most-watched weekend news shows in Southern California.
For years, she co-presented with Chris Burrous, who died in 2018 of a methamphetamine overdose. Romero has since taken over as the show’s helmsman, alongside Mester.
Romero has kept a low profile on social media since leaving KTLA, but did address fans on September 14.
“I will always be grateful for the love and affection the viewers in Los Angeles have given me,” she tweeted. “Stay tuned my friends, I’ll be right back.”
On September 17, Romero expressed his gratitude and shared a tweet of actor Holly Robinson Peete, the former co-host of CBS’s “The Talk,” who was fired in 2011 after just one season on the daytime talk show.
“As someone who didn’t receive a farewell or even acknowledgment from my departure many years ago,” Peete replied to Romero’s tweet, “I feel the disrespect and wish you all the best absolute, I can’t wait to see the sequel!”