KTLA fired newscaster Mark Mester Thursday afternoon, days after he was suspended after an off-script segment criticizing the station’s handling of the abrupt departure of its co-anchor Lynette Romero, according to several station staff.
The station’s general manager, Janene Drafs, announced the resignation with a short speech at a newsroom meeting at around 1:15 p.m., saying: “[Mester] is no longer with KTLA5,” staffers who attended the announcement told The Times on Thursday.
The KTLA website no longer lists Mester on its list of reporters and anchors.
Last week, KTLA announced that Romero, a longtime anchor of its popular weekend morning show, had left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, sparking outrage and criticism.
“After nearly 24 years, Lynette Romero, our friend Lynette, has decided to move forward with anchoring our weekend morning news,” Pete Saiers, the station’s news director, wrote in a statement read by entertainment reporter Sam Rubin. during a segment of September 14.
“KTLA management had hoped she would stay here for the rest of her career, and KTLA has worked hard to make that possible,” added Rubin. “But Lynette has decided to go elsewhere for another opportunity. Lynette, we wish you the best of 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 nothing but the best.”
Saiers later said management had hoped Romero would record a farewell message for viewers, but she declined.
According to station sources who wished to remain anonymous, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to let her work a weekday anchor crew so she could spend more time with her family, but she was told there were no openings. goods. She has reportedly been hired at KNBC, LA’s NBC affiliate, as one of the anchors of the weekday morning show, sources said.
Romero did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
During the Saturday morning show over the weekend, Romero’s co-anchor Mester went off script with an emotional speech. He apologized to viewers on behalf of the station, saying that 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 can find it in your heart to forgive us,” Mester said, cracking his voice at times, in a monologue that lasted more than four minutes along with three of his colleagues.
Many viewers had applauded Mester’s ad-libbed post, but not long after his defense of Romero, Mester was suspended, fueling further criticism of KTLA’s handling of the situation.
“Mark was 100% right”, a user tweeted. “It’s like you’re begging to lose all your viewers with this kind of behavior.”
However, editorial staff described a different scenario, saying that Mester, who joined KTLA in 2014, had violated their trust.
Staffers said the producers wrote a script that Mester had to read to cast Romero, accompanied by photos and clips from her broadcasts, which Mester ignored during the segment. He had also rented a plane with a banner to fly over the station saying “We love you Lynette.” Mester had pitched producers to include footage of the aircraft in the segment, but was turned down.
Employees said they saw Mester pacing back and forth with an angry look before stepping on set for Saturday’s segment. He had warned his social media followers that he intended to raise the issue of Romero’s departure during that morning’s show.
After his segment, people in the newsroom said, they saw Mester ignore management’s requests to step into their office for a meeting. At one point, several staffers recalled Mester telling one of the news directors to “keep his mouth shut” and saying he refused to leave the building after being asked.
During the exchange with management, Mester allegedly shouted obscenities that could be heard by other staffers in the newsroom.
Mester did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment on Thursday.
Several sources at the station said it was common knowledge that staff were concerned about Mester’s mood and what was described as his “disrespectful” behavior towards women and that they had lodged a complaint with management.
“You wouldn’t believe the tantrums and the weird things that started him,” said one longtime editor. “You’re constantly afraid you’re going to say the wrong thing.”
A longtime anchor at the station said he hoped viewers would separate Romero’s choice to leave from Mester’s behavior, which they called “unprofessional” and “reckless”.
“It had to be shown over a script that was warm, loving and appreciative. It was great, and [Romero] would have loved that,” the anchor said of the farewell piece the producers had prepared. “Mark hijacked that and made it about him.”
Veteran journalists at KTLA said it’s common for newsroom managers not to give airtime to talent leaving for a competing station.
“Our industry has a habit of quickly and quietly releasing team members who go to the competition,” said Ashley Regan, producer of KTLA’s “Weekend Morning News” show, wrote in a statement posted on Twitter after Mester’s eruption. “We may not like the practice, but we know not to take it personally.”
Romero joined KTLA in 1998 and won multiple local Emmy Awards, including one in 2006 for her coverage of the Latino community. She co-anchored “KTLA Prime-News” and later co-anchored “KTLA Weekend Morning News”, one of the most watched weekend morning news shows in Southern California.
For years, she anchored with Chris Burrous, who died in 2018 of a methamphetamine overdose. Since then, Romero took charge 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 LA viewers have given me,” she tweeted. “Stay tuned my friends, I’ll be right back.”
On September 17, Romero expressed her gratitude and shared a tweet from actor 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 didn’t get a proper goodbye or even confirmation of my departure many years ago during the conversation,” Peete responded to Romero’s tweet, “I feel the disrespect and wish you all the best, can’t wait to see what the next step is!”