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KTLA fires weekend anchor Mark Mester over Saturday broadcast

The anchor was found to have violated an anti-disparagement clause in his contract, according to a source.

The anchor was found to have violated an anti-disparagement clause in his contract, according to a source.

A Los Angeles television station has fired its weekend morning news anchor after he spoke out about the station’s handling of the departure of a veteran broadcaster over the weekend.

On Thursday, executives at KTLA (Channel 5) dismissed weekend news anchor Mark Mester over concerns that comments he made during a weekend news broadcast violated an anti-disparagement clause in his contract, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the 8 a.m. hour of the KTLA Morning News on Saturday, Mester told viewers that the station owed former weekend co-host Lynette Romero an apology over how it announced Romero’s decision to leave KTLA for an opportunity at a different station.

Customarily, broadcasters who have invested a significant amount of time at a television station are allowed to address viewers close to their departure date. But Romero was given no such opportunity; instead, the station announced her departure through a statement read by its showbiz reporter, Sam Rubin, during a morning news broadcast last week.

That did not sit well with many inside KTLA’s newsroom, including Mester, who apologized to Romero and to viewers during a five-minute segment on Saturday.

“Lynette I love you so much, and you really are my best friend,” Mester said. “You did not deserve what happened to you on Wednesday.”

The incident prompted a rare weekend visit by the station’s general manager, Janene Drafts, who spoke to workers inside KTLA’s newsroom on Sunday. Drafts said it was Romero’s decision to move on from the station, and compared her departure to a football player leaving one team for another. She ended her comments by announcing free breakfast burritos for everyone in the newsroom that day.

KTLA suspended Mester while it explored possible disciplinary action against the anchor. On Wednesday, Drafts met with Mester and an employment attorney to explore the situation at hand, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

Earlier this morning, the station received clearance from its corporate parent, Nexstar Media Group, to terminate Mester’s employment. He was notified about their decision earlier this morning, a source said, and employees at KTLA were notified of his dismissal later in the afternoon. The Los Angeles Times was the first to report on Mester’s firing.

KTLA and Mester have not addressed his departure as of Thursday evening, but a web producer at the station was instructed to remove his biography from the KTLA website, and Mester has removed references to the station from some of his social media accounts.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).