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MORNING NEWS ANCHOR DROPPED BY KNBC.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Staff Writer

BURBANK - In a further shake-up at KNBC-TV (Channel 4), veteran morning news anchor Kent Shocknek is being let go in a cost-cutting move that has already claimed three other reporters and several support staffers.

Shocknek, who has been on the air with the station's No. 1-rated ``Today in LA'' since its inception in 1986, was told earlier this week that his contract would not be renewed, said sources in the newsroom.

Shocknek's longtime co-host, Kathy Vara, is also leaving the station, although for reasons not directly related to the budget tightening ordered by NBC's corporate offices in New York.

Several KNBC employees say the cuts are being orchestrated by the station's new president and general manager, Paula Walker Madison.

``Anyone whose contract is up is not being renewed because they can't put up a fight,'' said a news staffer who did not want to be identified.

Madison was unavailable for comment and station spokeswoman Erin Dittman said only that an announcement would be made today on changes affecting the on-air lineup.

The new anchors of ``Today in LA'' are expected to be midday anchor David Cruz and Kelly Mack, who anchors at 4 and 6 p.m.

Shocknek declined to be interviewed because he is still under contract through later this year.

According to one source, both Shocknek and Vara wanted slots in the afternoon newscast and were told there was none available. Vara decided to leave, while Shocknek was let go, their colleagues said.

NBC, a subsidiary of General Electric. Co., said last month that it will cut up to 10 percent of its work force to offset declining advertising revenue brought on by a slowing economy.

Reporters Joe Rico, Tracie Savage and helicopter pilot Bob Pettee have been or will be let go. The station has also eliminated many of its free-lance editors and writers, leaving a skeleton staff.

According to station employees, Madison started changing the format of ``Today in LA'' in December, a month after she arrived from news director of WNBC-TV in New York. Staffers complain that the focus has shifted from breaking news and high story count to lengthy interview pieces.

While Vara had been on ``Today in LA'' since 1994, Shocknek was a founding member when it started as a half-hour show nearly 15 years ago, the first morning news show in the Los Angeles market. It now airs from 5 to 7 a.m.

Aside from being a regular presence on KNBC, five-time Emmy winner Shocknek has also pitched in on breaking stories for NBC's network news, notably the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster and the 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake, during which he encouraged viewers to take cover during an aftershock - then did so himself while on the air.

A former reporter and anchor with the ABC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., Shocknek, who lives in Pasadena, first worked as a reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and a Marina del Rey weekly, The Argonaut.

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 9, 2001
Words:503
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