KCBS lays off anchors Jeff Michael, Sandra Mitchell and weatherman Garth Kemp

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Meg James
·3 min read
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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16, 2019 Photo of the Broadcast Center Building on the CBS Studios Center in Studio City on October 16, 2019 for a package of stories about CBS' television stations. The stations, KCBS Channel 2 and KCAL Channel 9, are housed on the lot. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Three prominent KCBS-TV Channel 2 anchors were let go Wednesday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Prominent anchors Jeff Michael, Sandra Mitchell and Sharon Tay, along with meteorologist Garth Kemp, were cut from CBS TV stations in Los Angeles late Wednesday amid sweeping corporate layoffs.

Michael has been co-anchor of KCBS-TV Channel 2's premier newscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. for more than three years.

The Emmy Award-winning anchor joined KCBS in early 2017 after working as an anchor at rival Fox's KTTV-Channel 11 for nearly two decades.

Michael became known to L.A. TV viewers in the early 1990s as a crime reporter for KABC-TV Channel 7. He provided live coverage of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, the infamous slow-speed chase of O.J. Simpson's white Bronco and dispatches from Simpson's criminal trial, among other major stories.

The station lost another stalwart, Stu Mundel, the popular aerial journalist who is best known for calling L.A.'s police chases from the station's helicopter. Mundel notified the station earlier this month that he had received an offer from Fox Channel 11, and now will provide his reports for the cross-town rival, according to knowledgeable people. Mundel's departure was separate from the layoffs.

The Studio City-based KCBS axed about a dozen journalists, part of a companywide cost-cutting that comes nearly six months after the merger of Viacom and CBS. Executives last year told investors the corporate union would bring $750 million in savings. Since then, the coronavirus shutdowns have weighed heavily on the company's finances.

Kemp is another fixture in local broadcasting. The familiar weatherman joined KCBS in 2016, providing forecasts during the evening newscasts, and worked more than 15 years at KABC as a meteorologist.

Mitchell, also an Emmy Award-winning journalist, had been with sister station KCAL-TV Channel 9 for nearly 20 years. She anchored KCAL's noon newscast. On Wednesday, she anchored the station's midday coverage of NASA's planned astronaut launch aboard a SpaceX rocket, which was scrubbed because of weather conditions in Florida.

Tay has been with KCBS and its sister station KCAL-TV Channel 9 for nearly 13 years. She became a primary co-anchor for KCAL's signature newscasts about a decade ago.

Jennifer Kim, KCBS and KCAL morning traffic reporter, also was let go.

"We are restructuring various operations at CBS as part of our ongoing integration with Viacom, and to adapt to changes in our business, including those related to COVID-19," a CBS spokesman said in a statement. "Our thoughts today are with our departing colleagues for their friendship, service and many important contributions to CBS.”

Several producers and camera operators also were cut. The station also pared back its investigative unit, although prominent investigative reporter David Goldstein remains with the station.

Since the stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus outbreak, TV stations, newspapers and other local media have been reeling from dramatic cuts in advertising. Movie studios, retail chains and car makers and dealerships, which typically are heavy buyers of TV station time, have slashed their ad budgets.

TV station economics were fragile even before the pandemic. KCBS, in particular, has struggled for years in the ratings and has experienced low morale and management turnover. Its newscasts trail KABC, Spanish-language KMEX-TV Channel 34, KVEA-TV Channel 52 and KNBC-TV Channel 4 in viewers.

As many as 400 employees at ViacomCBS were affected by the cuts, according to people familiar with the plans who were not authorized to discuss them publicly and requested anonymity. Many of the cuts were in Los Angeles, where CBS Entertainment is located, and the corporate headquarters in New York.

About a dozen people were cut from CBS' TV station in Chicago, WBBM-TV Channel 2.