There are two unhappy campers at KTVX News these days. One wants out, the other has been forced out.
Karen Carns, who came to Ch. 4 in March, 1985, to co-anchor the station's weekday 5:30 and 10 p.m. newscasts with Phil Riesen, has asked station management to release her from her contract so she can accept a job offer from a network affiliate in Phoenix. And weekend news anchor Mark Ericson has been fired.Neither Carns nor her bosses at Ch. 4 will comment on her contract request. But sources in Phoenix indicate that Carns has been approached about a position there at CBS affiliate KTSP, where the previous female co-anchor took maternity leave and then decided to stay maternal. But those same sources say that KTVX is taking a hard line on Carns, refusing to negotiate a break in her contract, which commits her to the Salt Lake City station until March 17, 1989.
"They're (KTSP) anxious to get a new co-anchor, so I don't think they'll be willing to wait for Carns," said Barbara Holsopple, who covers local television for the Phoenix Gazette. "They are desperate."
Which is unfortunate for Carns, who has reportedly been dissatisfied with KTVX for some time despite her personal affection for Salt Lake City. Rumors of personality conflicts between her and Riesen have been circulating through the local television community for months, and there was some talk of her attempting to get out of her contract when it came time for Ch. 4 to pick up her second option year last March. But KTVX general manager David Woodcock will say only that he had a meeting with Carns last week and that as of Monday morning she remains an employee of KTVX News.
Ericson, however, has been released from his KTVX contract more than a month early. The station had informed him several weeks ago that his contract would not be renewed when it expires Oct. 31. "They said they were satisfied with my on-air performance" Ericson said. "The only reason they gave me for letting me go was that I didn't always come in on time."
Ericson feels the real problem he had at KTVX was a personal one with news director John Edwards. "He didn't like my lifestyle," Ericson said. "I'm young, single and I go to bars once in a while. I think Edwards saw me as a free spirit, and he tried to reign me in. When he saw that he couldn't, he got rid of me."
Edwards denies that Ericson's lifestyle was behind the decision not to renew his contract, but he declined further comment. "Mark has been told the reason," Edwards said, "so there's no reason to go into that publicly. But it's not because of lifestyle or personal problems with me."
Still, Ericson at least had a job at KTVX through the end of October - until he went on KTKK radio last week and talked openly about his dismissal, Carns' rumored departure and the current state of affairs in the KTVX news room. "I've been on television for 11 years now," Ericson told KTKK host Martin Davis, "and I've never seen anything like it." The hour was like open season on KTVX, with callers upset about everything at KTVX from its treatment of Ericson to its decision not to carry ABC's "Nightline."
And that was the final straw for KTVX. The next day Ericson was informed that he had violated his contract by making public statements about the station that were "essentially untrue," and would therefore be terminated immediately.
Which didn't surprise Ericson in the least. "I expected that they would try to get out of paying me for the last six weeks of my contract," he said. "They're so predictable, it's just pathetic."
John DuPree will replace Ericson in KTVX's weekend anchor line-up. And as for Ericson . . . well, he's not sure what's in his future. He has applied for Bob Evans' old job in Kansas City, but other than that he has nothing in mind. "I've got no job offer - nothing," he said. "I was planning on staying in Salt Lake City for a while. I was really growing to like it here. I'm just sorry I can't stay."
Unlike Carns, who is probably sorry she can't leave.
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