2 news anchors to leave amid CBS budget cuts

Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles television news fixtures Harold Greene and Ann Martin will leave the anchor desks at KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 when their contracts expire in May, and about a dozen fellow staffers behind and in front of the camera have received pink slips at the sister CBS-affiliate stations.

The layoffs were effective Monday and coincided with widespread layoffs at CBS affiliates nationwide, including San Francisco and New York.

The local cuts include technical staff as well as several members of the on-air news team, including reporters Jennifer Davis and Jennifer Sabih, according to a station executive who requested anonymity.

Union technicians at the stations also were offered voluntary buyouts, although it was unknown how many had accepted the offers.

Mike Nelson, vice president of communications for CBS Television Stations, said he could not comment on the departures because of the confidentiality of personnel decisions.


The station source, however, said Greene’s and Martin’s contracts were not going to be renewed and they opted to retire, effective June 1.

The two anchors have been mainstays of TV news in Los Angeles for three decades and -- along with KNBC-TV Channel 4’s Paul Moyer and Colleen Williams -- are among the longest-serving local anchors. They were part of a generation of well-known, highly compensated news personalities that included John Beard, Kelly Lange and Tricia Toyota -- all of whom are now off the air as news anchors.

Greene and Martin first reported the news together in the 1980s and ‘90s at KABC-TV Channel 7. KCBS, which was stuck in third place in the TV news ratings, hired Martin and then Greene in hopes of reversing the station’s fortunes.

When Greene was lured to KCBS in 2001, the station’s then-general manager, John Severino, said: “Our research showed that Harold is one of the most highly respected news people. He had a strong news image at a strong news station, and now he will bring that over here. He will have a strong halo effect.”

Martin co-anchors KCAL’s news at 4 p.m. and KCBS’ news at 6 p.m. She joined KCBS as an anchor in 1994 after having anchored newscasts at KABC for 13 years. While at KABC, she was the host of “AM Los Angeles” and “Eye-On-L.A.,” among other programs, and was a guest host on the ABC network’s “Good Morning America.”

Greene is Martin’s co-anchor on the 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Neither Greene, Martin, Davis or Sabih could be reached for comment.

Both television stations moved into a new state-of-the art broadcast center in Studio City in April 2007. A station source said the new facility had allowed the stations to operate more efficiently and to be able to run news operations with fewer personnel.

Still, the cuts at KCBS and KCAL come as the majority of CBS’ 29 owned-and-operated affiliates around the country laid off staff in the last week. The job cuts were made, in part, in response to the financial performance of the CBS station group in the first quarter of this year, executives said. The number of cuts at each station varied, but included many well-known on-air personalities.

Meanwhile, CBS News laid off some of its staff this week as part of a separate effort to pare costs in the network news division. In all, a little more than 1% of the 1,500-person news operation is being let go. The network cuts mostly affected technical and operations personnel, and did not include on-air reporters or anchors. The news division also plans to leave some open positions unfilled, further whittling the staff.

“Like many news organizations, we are dealing with changes in technology and news gathering and trying to determine how best to utilize our staff,” said CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius.

The timing of the layoffs at the local stations is not connected to the cuts on the network news side, CBS executives said.

CBS is the latest network division to undergo belt-tightening. ABC News has undergone a series of job cuts in the last year, and NBC News has been paring its operations since November 2006, when parent company NBC Universal announced a corporate-wide restructuring program.