KTLA news anchor Mark Mester was fired Thursday afternoon, days after he was suspended following an off-script segment about his co-anchor Lynette Romero’s abrupt departure, according to several employees at the station.
The newsroom’s general manager, Janene Drafs, announced the firing with a brief speech during a meeting in the newsroom around 1:15 p.m., saying, “[Mester] is no longer at KTLA5,” staffers who were present for the announcement told The Times Thursday.
The KTLA website no longer lists Mester on its roster of reporters and anchors.
Last week, KTLA announced that Romero, a longtime anchor of KTLA’s popular weekend morning show, had left the station without saying goodbye to viewers, drawing wide outrage and criticism.
“After 24 years, Lynette Romero has decided to move on from anchoring our weekend morning news,” Pete Saiers, the station’s news director, wrote in a statement that was read by entertainment reporter Sam Rubin during a Sept. 14 segment.
“We really wanted her to stay, and KTLA management worked hard to make that happen,” Rubin added. “Lynette decided to leave for another opportunity. We had hoped she would record a farewell message to viewers, but she declined. Lynette has been a wonderful member of the KTLA family and we wish her and her family the best.”
According to station sources who asked to remain anonymous, Romero no longer wanted to work weekends and had asked management to work a weekday anchor shift so she could spend more time with her family, but was told there were no openings. She reportedly was hired at another local TV news station, sources said.
During Saturday’s weekend morning show, Mester, Romero’s co-anchor, went off script with an emotional speech. He apologized, on behalf of the station, to viewers, saying the handling of Romero’s exit “was rude, it was cruel, it was inappropriate, and we are so sorry.”
He went on to apologize to Romero, whom he called “his best friend.”
“You did not deserve this, it was a mistake and we hope you can find it in your heart to forgive us,” Mester said, his voice cracking at times, in a monologue that lasted more than four minutes alongside three of his colleagues.
Many viewers had applauded Mester’s ad-libbed message, but not long after his defense of Romero, Mester was suspended, drawing even more criticism of how KTLA handled the situation.
However, newsroom employees spoke of a different scenario and alleged that Mester had violated their trust.
Staffers said producers had written a script for Mester to read to send off Romero, accompanied by photos and clips of her broadcasts. He had also hired a plane with a banner to fly over the station with the message: “We love you Lynette.” Mester had pitched producers to include footage of the plane in the segment but was rejected.
Mester did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.