Dana King's departure from KPIX actually has been in the mix for the better part of a month as station brass had met behind closed doors to work out an amiable settlement for her and in essence work out a move to finally make the decision.
That decision actually began in earnest in 2008. CBS corporate and its O and O, (owned and operated stations), sent a directive to KPIX management to "immediately cut a million dollars from the budget." Upon receiving that directive, News Director Dan Rosenheim wanted to fire King, but that move was nixed by then GM, Ron Longinottti.
A source close to the station told me that Longinotti felt that King "was the 'face of Channel 5--the 'public image and doing that would alienate not only King loyalists and viewers, but the staff in the newsroom too." The source requested anonymity due to the nature of the story.
Keep in mind that '08 was a sensitive and grueling time at 855 Battery, (KPIX headquarters); senior reporters John Lobertini, Bill Schechner, and anchor, Rick Quan, were all part of a group of air talent let go amid major budget cuts. Two of the reporters, (Lobertini and Schechner) filed age-discrimination lawsuits that were eventually thrown out but are still under appeal.
The move to oust King was a joint decision by both Rosenheim and Bruno Cohen, the GM who took over for the recently-fired Longinotti. King's $800K salary was reason #1; today's new local TV news model, even in major markets like the Bay Area, has been lowering the boom on highly-compensated anchors and King was a part of that club.
Her celebrated hair-style look that revealed major grey streaks was not a factor in the dismissal. It all bottomed on money. The source speculated that King was told her work was appreciated but that the financials were out of the current budget plan. The source added that King probably got a "very generous" settlement. "Look, she really is enamoured with art and sculpture--I'm sure she's OK with what's transpired."
I asked King, via text, for comment on this story. She responded: "I'm disappointed in what you've written thus far.--...the station can take some Benjamin's and hire more talented reporters...then I will have done a good thing for 'myself and the station. It's a win win. There is no loser here."
That might be all well and good, but ultimately it was the station mangers that made this decision, not King. And money was the major factor. King disputed my reporting of her salary even though a source close to PIX confirmed it and it was noted in a 2008 legal brief.
The news of King's leaving left the Channel 5 newsroom in shock. A newsroom that is reportedly aghast over the abundance of news managers over reporters. One of those reporters, who requested anonymity, said it more overtly: "We have eight or nine managers and that's a farce--sometimes we have only two reporters in the field and nine managers!"
A major caveat to the story: ND Rosenheim is the unequivocal power player inside the newsroom. Below Cohen for sure, but definitely calling the shots. There was a time, after Longinotti's ouster, that Cohen would fire Rosenhein, but it hasn't happened and this move only reinforces his influence at PIX. At least for now.
King asked me to plug her website: http://www.danakingart.com
*RICH LIEBERMAN 415 MEDIA EXCLUSIVE
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