KTLA fires anchor Mark Mester after Lynette Romero defense

KTLA-TV Channel 5 fired news anchor Mark Mester Thursday afternoon, days after he was suspended following an off-script segment in which he criticized the station’s handling of the sudden departure of its co-host Lynette Romero, according to several employees at the station .

The channel’s chief executive, Janene Drafs, announced the dismissal in a brief speech during an editorial meeting at around 1.15pm, saying: “[Mester] is no longer with KTLA5,” staffers who were present at the announcement told The Times on Thursday.

The KTLA website no longer lists Mester on their list of reporters and presenters.

Last week, KTLA announced that Romero, a longtime host of its popular weekend morning show, had left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, prompting widespread outrage and criticism.

“After nearly 24 years, Lynette Romero, our friend Lynette, has decided to no longer host our weekend morning news,” wrote Pete Saiers, the network’s news director, in a statement read by entertainment reporter 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 has chosen to move elsewhere to another opportunity. Lynette, we wish you the best of luck, we miss you and we thank you for everything you have done for KTLA. … On behalf of everyone here, we wish you and your family all the best.”

Saiers later said management had hoped Romero would include a farewell message to viewers, but she declined.

According to broadcast sources, who asked not to be identified, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to allow her to work an anchor shift on weekdays so she could spend more time with her family, but was told that there are no vacancies. She was reportedly hired at KNBC-TV, LA’s NBC affiliate, as one of the weekday morning show hosts, sources said.

Romero did not immediately respond to the Times request for comment.

During Saturday’s morning show over the weekend, Mester, Romero’s co-host, walked off the script with an emotional speech. He apologized to viewers on behalf of the channel and said the handling of Romero’s exit was “rude, cruel, inappropriate and we are so sorry”.

He then apologized to Romero, whom he called “his best friend.”

“You didn’t deserve this, it was a mistake and we hope you find it in your heart to forgive us,” Mester said, his voice sometimes cracking, in a monologue that lasted more than four minutes along with three of his colleagues.

Many viewers had applauded Mester’s promotional message, but not long after his defense of Romero, Mester was suspended, drawing even more criticism of how KTLA was handling the situation.

“Mark was 100% right” tweeted one user. “It’s like you’re begging to lose all your viewers with that kind of behavior.”

However, editorial staff described a different scenario and said Mester, who joined KTLA in 2014, betrayed their trust.

Staff said the producers wrote a script for Mester to read to send Romero accompanied by photos and clips of their broadcasts, which Mester ignored during the segment. He had also chartered a plane with a banner to fly over the station with the message “We love you Lynette.” Mester had asked the producers to include footage of the plane in the segment, but was turned down.

Staff said they saw Mester pacing with an angry look before entering the set for the Saturday segment. He had alerted his social media followers that he was planning to address Romero’s departure on This Morning’s show.

After his segment, people on the editorial board said they saw Mester ignore management’s request to come to their office for a meeting. At one point, several staff members recalled Mester telling one of the news directors to “shut up,” saying he refused to leave the building after being told to do so.

During the exchange with management, Mester reportedly shouted profanities that could be heard by other staff members on the editorial board.

Mester did not immediately respond to The Times requests for comment Thursday.

Multiple sources at the station said it was common knowledge that staff were concerned about Mester’s temper and his behavior towards women, which he described as “disrespectful,” and had complained to management.

“You wouldn’t believe the tantrums and the strange things that have thrown him off course,” said a longtime newsroom staffer. “One is constantly afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

A longtime presenter for the channel said he hoped viewers would separate Romero’s decision to leave from Mester’s behavior, which they described as “unprofessional” and “reckless”.

“It should be shown over a warm, loving and appreciative script. It was great and [Romero] would have loved that,” the host said of the farewell track the producers had prepared. “Mark kidnapped this and did it over him.”

Veteran journalists at KTLA said it’s standard practice for editors not to give airtime to talent who transfers to a competing network.

“Our industry has a practice of quickly and quietly firing team members who transfer to the competition,” says Ashley Regan, producer of KTLA’s Weekend Morning News show. wrote in a statement posted to 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 has won several local Emmy Awards, including one in 2006 for her coverage of the Latino community. She co-hosted KTLA Prime-News and later co-hosted KTLA Weekend Morning News, which is among the most-watched weekend morning news programs in Southern California.

For years, she co-anchored with Chris Burrous, who died of a methamphetamine overdose in 2018. Since then, Romero has taken over the leadership of the show alongside Mester.

Romero has kept a low profile on social media since leaving KTLA, but she addressed fans on Sept. 14.

“I will always be grateful for the love and affection that viewers have shown me in LA,” she tweeted. “Hold on my friends, I’ll be right back.”

On September 17, Romero expressed her gratitude and shared a tweet by actress Holly Robinson Peete, the former co-host of CBS’ The Talk, who was fired in 2011 after just one season on the daytime talk show.

“As someone who hasn’t had a proper goodbye or even confirmation of my departure many years ago in conversation,” Peete replied to Romero’s tweet, “I feel the disrespect and wish you the very best. I can’t wait to see what’s next! ”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-09-22/ktla-anchor-mark-mester-fired-after-on-air-outburst-over-lynette-romeros-departure KTLA fires anchor Mark Mester after Lynette Romero defense

Sarah Ridley

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