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February 6, 2008
Channel 13 news director Steve Charlier leaving

AA KOVR CHARLIER.JPG
Andy Alfaro/Sacramento Bee file, 2005


That revolving door at Channel 13 's newsroom will see its biggest departure yet on Thursday, when controversial news director Steve Charlier (pictured) squeezes through and leaves the West Sacramento building.

Charlier, who has overseen a complete overhaul (actually more than one) of the on-air talent and changed the tenor of the newscasts from sleepy to tabloidy, has accepted a position as senior vice president for news, product and operations for a startup outfit called Local TV.

Read more here.

(Local TV was formed last year by a group of Ohio investors to purchase the assets of Broadcast Media Group, which includes nine stations owned by the New York Times Co. Most of the stations are in the Midwest and South.)

Replacing Charlier on an interim basis will be Cameryn Beck, who had served as the assistant news director. In 2005, Beck was hired away from Channel 3, where she produced the 5 p.m. news.

The timing of Charlier's departure was curious, coming in the middle of the February sweeps month. Bruno Cohen, president of CBS's Sacramento stations, said Charlier was not forced out. However, sources at the station say he had interviewed for several news positions, including in Seattle, in the past few months.

"It's a terrific career move for him," Cohen says of Charlier, who was known for his aggressive management style that included jumping on desks, browbeating staffers and, once, spray painting "Interrupt the news for news" on the newsroom wall.

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Asked about Charlier's legacy, Cohen was emphatically positive.

"He's done a fantastic job for us," Cohen says. "When you look at the complete redevelopment of the Channel 13 news, he's put us in a much more aggressive position. We're winning the late news again (at 10 p.m.). He's affected virtually every time period at the station. He helped us get the merger (of Channel 31 and 13) done, which was very complex.

"In a backhanded way, he's responsible for prompting a lot of changes at Channel 3. They rushed their HD development in. They changed their news director because of (Charlier). He's made the market more competitive and he's brought up the level of journalism in the Sacramento region. As a consequence, I think the viewers have benefited, whether they watch us or anybody else."

In the press release from Local TV announcing Charlier's appointment, this was listed as Charlier's top accomplishment at Channel 13:

"While the TV maverick has an assortment of television successes to his credit, perhaps his most notable is the wildly successful TV launch of CBS13.com in Sacramento. The 5 AM and 6 AM news program on KOVR is based on the station’s website in a unique integration of new technology and traditional news."

Strange that Channel 13's morning show is listed as Charlier's big success. This is the program in which anchor Chris Burrous caused a stir by giving beer to the homeless. And the ratings have been poor. In the November sweeps, Channel 13 finished last at 5 a.m. and second to last at 6 a.m., failing to draw higher than a 1.4 rating.

Charlier's quote in the press release reads, in part: "The hardest part is leaving my staff at KOVR/KMAX. I know they’re more than ready to do it on their own, but I will miss them.”

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