On his daily program, KFQD's conservative talk show host Dan Fagan just revealed that Steve McDonald (pictured at left), the news director of KTUU Channel 2, Alaska's leading broadcast news outlet, has been fired on February 2nd, 2008 by the station's general manager, Susan Lucas, who herself earlier replaced Al Bramstedt. The Anchorage Daily News has now picked up on the story.
The podcast of Dan Fagan's show will be available HERE by 7 P.M. Alaska time tonight, and will remain up for 24 hours. He first announces the firing almost immediately during the first hour.
Dan Fagan has now explained that there was friction between Steve McDonald and Susan Lucas, which came to a head on Sunday February 1st. Lucas wanted late night anchor Mike Ross to do the local news cut-ins during the Super Bowl telecasts and the late news afterwards. McDonald wanted Jill Burke to perform both tasks. Apparently there was a mix-up in communication; although Ross did the cut-ins, Burke did the later newscasts. Fagan now reiterates this on The Alaska Standard. He believes this merely was the final straw and there could be other issues. To add insult to injury, Fagan has just told us that Lucas actually had Steve McDonald physically escorted from the building.
Susan Lucas confirmed the firing to ADN, but would not divulge details. She disclosed that her phone has been ringing off the hook, but opined that many callers had inaccurate information. Since Dan Fagan was the first to break the story, this implies that she's questioning the accuracy of Fagan's information.
The replacement news director is not an on-the-air news personality. The new lead anchor to replace McDonald is expected to be either Mike Ross, Jason Moore, or Maria Downey. My money is on Ross; he's a natural. And on tonight's 5:00 P.M. broadcast, Mike Ross was indeed anchoring.
Here's his official bio, while it still can be extracted from KTUU's website:
Raised in Ohio, Steve and his wife Jan came to Anchorage in February 1981. They were only supposed to be here for six months so Jan could finish a project for the oil company she was working with at the time, but one look at the Chugach Mountains changed all those plans and the couple decided to make Anchorage their permanent home.
Steve began his broadcasting career spinning records (yes, music was on records back in those days) at KABN radio in Big Lake. A few months later he landed a job with KNIK radio and doing sports play-by-play for its sister station, KBYR.
In 1982, Steve broke into the news business as a reporter at KTVA. Four years later he became news director, where he led a small but spirited group of journalists. At KTVA Steve worked for Alaska broadcasting pioneer Augie Hiebert. It was Mr. Hiebert who taught Steve that it's the job of a journalist to serve the public by providing good, solid and fair information. It's a lesson that's never been forgotten.
In 1996 Steve moved on to Channel 2 News -- a newsroom with the same kind of philosophy. At Channel 2 News, Steve is the news director, helping manage a news team that numbers more than 50. He also reports and anchors from time to time.
Steve has won a number of awards for his reporting, as well as two Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for documentaries that he wrote and produced. Steve and his wife Jan have three kids: Heather, Regina and Michael. Along with his family, Steve enjoys all sports, especially, baseball and playing hockey. He loves riding his mountain bike through Denali National Park and he prays fervently that some day his beloved Cleveland Indians will win the World Series.
You can still e-mail Steve with your support and sympathy HERE for the time being. There's also a Facebook site that will be devoted to Steve McDonald, now available HERE (thanks, Sandra).
You can also contact the station directly to express your opinion about McDonald's firing. KTUU's contact page is HERE (no published e-mail address for Susan Lucas):
-- Phone: 907-762-9202
-- Fax: 907-561-0874
-- E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
-- E-mail email@example.com (Maria Downey, assistant news director)
I have just learned that Susan Lucas is no stranger to "abrupt terminations"; she abruptly resigned from a previous position as president and general manager of KVVU Channel 5 in Las Vegas in August 2004. No reason was given. Nonetheless, I hope that Lucas will step forth and explain this decision publicly. It could be that there's something we don't know. But from my perspective, Steve McDonald was a class act, totally dedicated to journalistic integrity. He wasn't the authoritative class A personality like his predecessor, John Tracy, but he was a consummate professional, and his professionalism rubbed off on the staff (although I wish Leyla Santiago would get rid of the frog in her throat when she speaks). As a matter of fact, it was during McDonald's tenure that Tracy Sinclaire finally became a professional weathercaster and stopped blocking the visual aids while she presents the weather.
Steve McDonald also moderated several candidate debates over the years. He was faultlessly professional and unbiased. He will easily find another job; this could be a potential opportunity for KTVA Channel 11 to hire him and instantly become a much more powerful competitor to Channel 2.