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Channel 3 in Las Vegas cuts staff in cost-saving move

Updated March 5, 2021 - 4:54 am

More than a dozen KSNV-News 3 employees were laid off Wednesday as one of the nation’s largest television broadcasters eliminated hundreds of jobs around the country.

Four well-known, on-air personalities were let go in the sweeping moves: weekend anchor Gerard Ramalho, daytime anchor Heather Mills, weekend weatherman Jerry Brown and sports anchor/reporter Amber Dixon. All four individually confirmed their departures to the R-J on Thursday morning.

The decisions were conveyed on Wednesday during Zoom meetings called by KSNV Station Manager Larry Strumwasser and News Director Stephanie Wheatley.

Efforts to reach station management for comment have been unsuccessful.

Eight employees under the newsroom umbrella, including the four broadcasters, have left the station. The others were from departments such as sales and promotions.

Came as a shock

The moves were a shock to those who were let go. Even as late as Thursday morning, the station aired a promo of Mills’ weekend report from Brian Head, Utah, though she was informed the previous day she was no longer employed at the station.

Ramalho said he was asked to attend an afternoon meeting and felt it was a companywide or staff session.

“When I was the only one in the meeting, I knew it was something different,” Ramalho said Thursday morning. “But I am OK, seriously. I’ m optimistic about what’s next. I am truly grateful for my years at Channel 3. I’m more excited than people might think, and I might try something new, maybe somewhere new. I am looking forward to it.”

Ramalho, who has won five Emmy Awards, had been with NBC-affiliated News 3 for nearly 21 years while Mills joined News 3 in 2016, according to news3lv.com. Dixon worked as a news reporter when hired about eight years ago before switching to sports anchor/reporter. Brown had been on the air in Las Vegas for nearly 30 years and was a 2009 inductee into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Ramalho is also a member of the hall of fame.

‘It’s the biz’

“It’s the biz,” said Brown, who had been with the station since 2007 and has been in the Las Vegas market since 2003. “I’m from Vegas. I’ve been here, on the air, for a long time I hope to stay here. I don’t want to hang it up, yet. I still have some mileage on me.”

Of his Channel 3 colleagues, Brown said, ” I wish them well. I had great experiences there.”

Mills said, “It’s a shock,” during a phone chat Thursday morning.

“I really loved working at Channel 3 and The CW,” Mills said. “I loved working with my news director, the people in Las Vegas have been wonderful. It is my home. I can’t take it to heart, it’s heartbreaking, but I know it it was not performance-based.”

Moving forward, she said, “It’s going to be really tough. It’s not a great time to be looking for jobs in TV.”

Dixon texted Thursday morning, “I’m fine. Yesterday, I was shocked.” She said that after receiving the news, the first thing she did was an online search of “Sinclair.”

“The first item that came up under “News” was a headline that read, ‘Sinclair Broadcast Group Profit Pops; Earns Key Rating Upgrade,’ ” Dixon said. “It’s confusing and disappointing, but I’m grateful for my eight and a half years at Channel 3. I’m now a free agent.”

Pandemic issues

Citing the pandemic, the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group said it was reducing its 9,211-person workforce by approximately 5 percent, meaning about 460 people nationwide will lose their jobs.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt across all sectors of the economy, something that can have a profound impact on a company as diversified as ours,” a Sinclair spokesperson told CNN Business in a statement. “From local businesses and advertisers to distributors and partners, no component of our business’s ecosystem has been fully shielded from the impact of the global pandemic.

“In response to this, we are currently undergoing enterprise-wide reductions across our workforce, including corporate headquarters, to ensure we are well-positioned for future success,” it said.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman texted Thursday afternoon in support of those who left the station, describing them as “breaths of fresh air “and saying, “So positive, truthful, non-political and genuinely part of our Las Vegas family. To lose Gerard with five Emmys, Jerry, Heather, Amber from reporting the news on Channel 3 is the deepest blow to the city of Las Vegas.”

Sinclair purchased in 2014

Sinclair purchased KSNV from owner Jim and Beverly Rogers in 2014. Jim Rogers acquired the station in 1979. The station also operates several Las Vegas sister channels, the main being The CW.

Sinclair had expanded more heavily into sports broadcasting before the pandemic and struggled when professional sports seasons were cut short or postponed last year, the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday.

The company reported a massive loss for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, as it wrote off a chunk of the value of regional sports networks it bought in 2019 for $10.6 billion. Sinclair lost $3.2 billion for the July-to-September period as it took a $4.2 billion charge to goodwill and intangible assets due to the pandemic.

Sinclair Broadcast Group was trading down 32 cents at $35.43 on the Nasdaq shortly before the close Thursday.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter. Clemons was a KSNV newsroom employee from 2011 to 2019. Contact John Katsilometes at JKatsilometes@reviewjournal.com.

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