Mike Gage, the former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and current head of the city Department of Water and Power Commission, has been hired as a TV reporter and commentator by KNBC Channel 4, the station confirmed Friday.
Gage, who has no experience as a journalist, will serve as “reporter/commentator for education, as well as (work) on an assignment in a new area of coverage under development,” Nancy Valenta, the station’s news director, said in a prepared statement.
Several news executives at other Los Angeles TV stations said that Gage’s hiring raised serious conflict-of-interest questions.
“It’s an outrage,” said Michael Singer, executive producer of the investigative unit and former news director at KCBS Channel 2, who added that CBS has strict rules prohibiting such a situation. “Whether Mike Gage has a conflict is not the issue. The issue is that there is an appearance of a conflict. He was a deputy mayor. He has a political agenda and is involved with an agency that has an enormous amount of power in Los Angeles. The idea that he could act in an objective way on stories that may involve his friends or political allies or the DWP is asking the impossible.”
“This is something we would not do because he could not be expected to report objectively,” said Dick Tuininga, news director at KTTV Channel 11. “It is unrealistic to expect that a reporter in a major-market operation could divorce himself of all of the influences of the city. No matter what he was reporting on, his objectivity would be in question.”
Valenta was on vacation and unavailable for comment. KNBC General Manager John Rohrbeck could not immediately be reached, nor could Gage, who resigned as Bradley’s chief deputy a year ago. When word of his KNBC job surfaced earlier this week, Gage had said that he had no intention of resigning his post with the DWP.
KNBC spokeswoman Regina Miyamoto said, however, that Gage’s primary responsibility at the station, education, has nothing to do with the city government.
In other newsroom changes at KNBC, Pete Noyes, a 29-year veteran in broadcast journalism and managing editor at the station since 1985, will move to the newly established position of executive producer of investigative coverage. In his new job, Noyes, who set up a now-defunct investigative unit at the station with reporter Warren Olney in 1979, will tackle both short-term and long-term investigative projects.
Ken Boles, currently executive producer of WESH-TV in Orlando, Fla., will assume Noyes’ job as managing editor early next year. Boles is a former producer for ABC News who also has done news management stints in Chicago, Houston and Dallas.