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Hairston’s Hair-Raising Departure

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While Channel 4 heavily-promoted a Mylous Hairston story about solving hair loss that ran this morning on “Wake Up,” friends, former colleagues and fans headed to Facebook Thursday night to lament the fact that the top-rated local news station is losing his talents.

And questioning whether the anchor-reporter’s sudden departure in the final week of the sweeps indicates that it won’t be long before News 4 is no longer on top locally.

I imagine once the Buffalo News publishes a story about Hairston’s departure the outcry will become even louder.

As reported here Thursday night, Hairston “resigned” after more than 20 years at WIVB-TV, and after being the chief negotiator for AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) in discussions with the negotiators for Channel 4’s owner, LIN TV.

Chris Musial, Channel 4’s president and general manager, sent a three-sentence message to the staff announcing that Hairston had left and offering his best wishes.

Three sentences after 20 years?

That’s hardly a warm and fuzzy goodbye for a popular employee.

Hairston, who had been scheduled to anchor this weekend, hasn’t been available for comment.

While Hairston has told friends and colleagues the decision to leave was his, the speculation inside Channel 4 is that the company gave him an incentive to go with an enhanced severance package.

As AFTRA’s negotiator, Hairston had been fighting the good fight after LIN imposed a contract on the union more than a year ago and required veteran reporters to learn how to shoot their own footage as new hires out of college are doing.

Morale inside the station’s news department is said to be at its lowest level in years as LIN attempts to cut higher salaries and eliminate veterans so they can be replaced by cheaper people hired right out of college.

Channel 4 also is working its anchors harder, with Don Postles, Jacquie Walker and Joe Arena often working the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts that Lisa Flynn anchored before she left the station last summer to spend more time with her young son.

Additionally, the station has been working with two on-air sports staffers for more than a year. Notably, Hairston filled in on sports on some weekends.

The trend to hiring younger or cheaper (or not hiring at all) was noted in several Facebook comments.

“Y are all the good people leaving?” asked one Facebook critic.

“Mylo is one of the ‘good guys,’” wrote former TV reporter Stefan Mychajliw, “whose professionalism and veteran leadership will be sorely missed. In this day and age, you can’t put a price tag on having a seasoned veteran within the ranks.”

“Seasoned veteran is becoming obsolete,” replied another Facebook user who is in the business. “We are diapering the newbies and too many mistakes are made now. Scary times.”

“How sad the times have changed and this is what has become of local news,” added one of Hairston’s former colleagues.

According to one source, Hairston received a standing ovation after he cleaned out his desk and headed for the exits.

“We all wish we could have followed him,” added one colleague.

It is unclear if Hairston has any new job lined up. If Hairston is interested in working in the political world, he would seem to be a strong candidate for the job as Mayor Brown’s spokesperson now that Peter Cutler is leaving that position. 

While news staffers are lamenting the loss of veterans, Channel 4’s ratings remain strong for now despite the coverage by all “the newbies” being diapered.

However, Channel 2 has closed the gap in recent months and appears to be set to possibly overtake Channel 4 after Oprah Winfrey ends her show this May and the 5 p.m. news lead-in disappears.

Channel 2 also is the only station in town that still seems to value its veterans, which could be to its benefit in the long term.


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5 responses to "Hairston’s Hair-Raising Departure"

  1. Pergy's friend says:

    Geez, I hope Ch 2 never changes its philosophy.

    Liked the dig at the News still relying on its trusty old “free”lance reporter.

  2. Tom W. says:

    Channel 2 seems to be the only station with a lot of stability where they have kept the veterans while adding both new and veteran reporters (Patrick Moussignac with 12 yrs prior to Ch 2) at the same time. They have also consistantly gotten better in the news presentation over the last several years.

    Ch 2 updated their weather center (going full HD last year), built a new set this year (which is HD ready), and continued investing in reporters. Realistically, they could be #1 with ratings in just a short time. They’ve already accomplished this with Daybreak, and are very close with the other shows.

    They will probably be the first local station with news in HD also. Their parent Gannett ramping up conversions to HD (they have done 2 stations already in the past 5 months), and a good portion of their stations have been in HD for some time.

  3. Sammy G says:

    The problem with veterans and especially veterans in unions is that they don’t want to accept that the world has changed. News gathering has undergone a tremendous amount of change, yet the “veterans” selfishly want their jobs to remain as they were 20 or 30 years ago.

    While you don’t want to lose experienced people, you also don’t want to have a newsroom full of resentful people who refuse to accept change.

    People in news often start disparaging young hires or start warning of some drop in journalism standards if things are changed.

    Because of technology, one person can do what used to take two or three union employees.

    If Mylous Hairston was a leader in the newsroom instead of a union leader he would of picked up a camera and shown everyone how digital news gathering is done. Instead he quit and created an opportunity for someone else who will do the job without complaining.

    • alanp says:

      Yes, one person can be asked to do three jobs because of technology. But he or she can’t do the three jobs as well as three people and without experiencing burnout.

  4. alanp says:

    The majority of veterans you list were hired years or decades ago. Shapiro (who was hired right out of college) and Segal are much more recent hires. Let’s see who replaces Mylous — a veteran or a newbie out of college.

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