Capping a year of inconsistent news ratings and seemingly endless controversy, KTLA has opted not to renew the contract of news director David Goldberg for a second year, resulting in Goldberg’s permanent departure from the station on Wednesday night.
Neither Goldberg nor KTLA’s VP/G.M., John Reardon, was available for comment on Thursday. Reardon issued a short statement that read, in part, “David Goldberg has implemented many good changes in our news department, including the design and construction of a dramatic new news set and creating an investigative news unit.”
Fishman an enemy
While there are those inside KTLA who were said to support Goldberg, his enemies included veteran “News at Ten” anchor and managing editor Hal Fishman, an adversarial relationship that ultimately proved to be his demise.
Even so, KTLA staffers were surprised by Goldberg’s ouster, particularly the swiftness of it. Until his replacement can be found, the station’s news department will be co-run by Steve Inouye (KTLA’s director of administration and development) and news operations manager Fernando Lopez. Inouye will serve as executive in charge of the news department, with Lopez named as acting news director.
Goldberg, who came to KTLA last August from Houston, clashed almost immediately with Fishman over news philosophy. Whereas Fishman favors short stories, a fast pace and a world overview, Goldberg was partial to longer stories, offbeat series and lengthy special reports.
Insiders say that Fishman rankled when forced to introduce such Goldberg mandates as a seven-minute piece on where to find the best chocolate in Los Angeles and a story on ways in which viewers can take precautions against their home pipes freezing.
Things were said to be coming to a head last spring when Goldberg, who was known to want Fishman out, disagreed openly with the veteran anchor, who blamed Goldberg’s changes for the station’s poor sweeps performance (losing to KTTV’s “Fox News at 10” in November, February and May) during his brief tenure.
The situation appeared to be veering toward a “him or me” situation, with Fishman considering leaving before his contract was up. When Fishman reupped in June for three more years as both anchor and managing editor, it was clear that Goldberg’s days were numbered.
Besides his contentious relationship with Fishman, Goldberg also had a falling-out with station vet Marta Waller after relieving her of her anchor duties on both “News at Ten” and KTLA’s midday newscast last fall. Waller wound up filing a lawsuit in May alleging age and gender discrimination and defamation in the demotions.
And in June, with the ratings in decline on the long-dominant “KTLA Morning News,” that show’s executive producer, Joel Tator, abruptly resigned, reportedly frustrated by Goldberg’s meddling.
Many also questioned Goldberg’s decision in March to install “Morning News” traffic reporter Jennifer York as a morning anchor. Rumors even flew that the two were romantically involved.
Some colleague support
Yet Goldberg was said to have some colleague support in his attempts to transform KTLA’s nighttime news from a stodgy, demographically decrepit anachronism to a more contemporary news-gatherer. He was undone, however, by the turmoil that his moves created, and the rancor that it inspired in the station’s old guard.
“Morale seriously declined under Goldberg,” admitted one staffer, “but it wasn’t necessarily all his fault. This station was already in free fall before he got here, and I’m not sure that his leaving will do a whole lot to change that.”
Ironically, on the same day that KTLA announced Goldberg would not be returning, the station learned that “News at Ten” had beaten KTTV’s “Fox News at 10” in the July sweeps survey, grabbing a 4.6 rating to KTTV’s 4.3.