A Los Angeles television station parted with a popular anchorman after he went on air to criticize management’s handling of a colleague’s departure, officials said Friday.
Mark Mester will not be in the anchor chair when KTLA’s “Weekend Morning News” airs on Saturday, one week after he appeared to go off-script to rip the station for not staging a more grand goodbye to his longtime co-anchor Lynette Romero.
“Mark Mester is no longer employed by KTLA,” according to a statement Friday by Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group Inc., which owns CW affiliate Channel 5 in Southern California. “As this is a personnel matter, we will decline further comment.”
This past Saturday, Mester seemed to choke back tears in telling viewers that the station should be ashamed of itself for not giving Romero a celebrated sendoff.
“I want to start off right now by offering up an apology to you. What the viewers experienced was rude, it was cruel, it was inappropriate and we are so sorry,” Mester told viewers in an emotional nearly four-minute testament to his former co-worker. “I also want to say sorry to Lynette Romero. I love you so much, you literally are my best friend. You did not deserve what happened to you on Wednesday.”
Mester’s monologue was delivered alongside three colleagues and accompanied by reels of Romero’s work and pictures from her personal life.
Three days earlier, KTLA weekday morning anchor Sam Rubin announced on air that Romero had left the station.
The words Rubin read on air last week mirrored a statement that Nexstar, which owns the station, made Friday to NBC News, attributing it to KTLA Vice President and General Manager Janene Drafs.
“After 24 years, Lynette Romero has decided to move on from anchoring our weekend morning news. We really wanted her to stay, and KTLA management worked hard to make that happen,” according to Drafs’ statement.
“Lynette decided to leave for another opportunity. We had hoped she would record a farewell message to viewers, but she declined,” the statement said. “Lynette has been a wonderful member of the KTLA family and we wish her and her family the best.”
The barebones sendoff, though, didn’t satisfy Mester.
Although he praised Drafs on air Saturday, he took issue with unnamed bosses for the manner of Romero’s exit. Mester said Romero had left KTLA to pursue another “opportunity.”
“It was unfortunate … it was inappropriate and we are so sorry about that,” he said of KTLA management. “Lynette deserved to say goodbye. It didn’t happen. I don’t know who wrote the script. I don’t know who handed it to Sam Rubin. Regardless, this was a mistake. We owe you an apology, and we owe Lynette an apology.”
Mester did not respond to messages seeking comment on Friday.
Longtime TV reporters and anchors will often receive loving, on-air sendoffs when they retire or leave their job.
But when those on-air personalities leave for a competing network or station, the separation is often immediate with little or no mention by the soon-to-be former employer.
KTLA did not say if Romero had secured another job, and she could not be reached for comment on Friday.
TV news contracts typically include no-compete clauses, preventing a reporter or anchor from working at a rival station for a set period of time, often six months.
Mester thanked Romero for her mentorship and said he learned that “dignity and grace” were the keys to success.
“And that is how we’re going to say bye to you today,” Mester said on air. “We’re going to offer you dignity and grace, which is what the station should have done from the beginning.”
Mester told viewers that an airplane dragging a “WE LOVE YOU LYNETTE!” message was flying over the station at that very moment. He shared a video of the prop plane pulling the banner on his Instagram, writing: “Now is the perfect time to tell @lynetteromero you love her!”
Liza Torres contributed.