I mentioned on my radio show this afternoon that I’d been tipped off that two veteran meteorologists — Cindy Preszler and Mike Roberts — have accepted buyouts from KSDK-TV-5 and would be leaving the station soon. Two hours later, at the end of their 6pm newscasts, they confirmed their last newscasts will be one week from today.
What wasn’t said is that this is yet another example of local TV stations pushing aside staffers who have been there a long time and thus have large paychecks. Cindy has been with channel five for 18 years, while Mike has been there for 20. They’ve been making a nice salary with great benefits in a union shop and, instead of being respected as vital members of the on-air team, they’re now viewed as commodities that are too expensive at a time when broadcast companies are cutting back.
A buyout might seem like a good deal, but only if they were planning on leaving the business entirely sometime soon. Cindy and Mike’s skills aren’t diminishing and they’re popular enough with the audience to keep doing what they do for another decade. But the fiscal reality of local TV won’t permit it. The station can hire people who are less than half their age and pay them a quarter of what they make.
This wasn’t a complete surprise. KSDK’s management announced a few months ago that it was offering these buyouts to employees over 55 because it wants to “make the news more interesting to younger audiences.” I have no idea how you make weather more compelling to that demographic, but I’m sure we’ll see a couple of twenty-somethings hired to take Cindy and Mike’s place in an effort to do so.
The really bad news for them is that, if they weren’t thinking about ending their TV careers soon, they now don’t have many options. All of the other local outlets in St. Louis have gone the same younger (cheaper) route, hiring reporters and anchors who look like they were attending their prom a week ago. I think you can tell by the looks on Cindy and Mike’s faces (and the tears) that this was not a voluntary move by these two longtime TV personalities…