KTTV Channel 11 has offered KNBC-TV news personality Kirstie Wilde a job anchoring its planned 11 p.m. newscast and might delay its scheduled premiere this month until she is freed from her current contract, Channel 11's general manager said Thursday.
"This is not a done deal," said Bob Morse, the man in charge of the Fox-owned station since July. "KNBC has the right of first refusal. If they meet our offer or beat it, Kirstie will have to stay there."
Wilde's contract with KNBC expires at the end of January. Though the terms of KTTV's offer were not revealed, Wilde said Thursday it would provide her with greater income and job security than she has ever enjoyed at KNBC. Both Morse and Wilde indicated that whether she stays put or jumps to KTTV now lies entirely in the hands of KNBC management.
"If they want to match the offer, I would be obliged and happy to stay," Wilde said. "I have no distaste for my job now."
KNBC, which is under no obligation to decide anything until Wilde's contract expires, refused any comment.
KTTV had planned to premiere its 11 p.m. newscast on Nov. 30 with its current 10 p.m. anchor team of Andrea Naversen and Bill Redeker. Morse said if it appears Wilde will be coming aboard, the station might delay the start of the new program, rather than switch from Naversen to Wilde in midstream.
Morse, who as general manager at WHAS, the CBS affiliate in Louisville, hired Wilde as an anchor in 1978, insisted that Naversen would continue to anchor the 10 p.m. news regardless of what happens between Wilde and KNBC. Some in the local news business have criticized KTTV for hiring two network correspondents, Naversen and Redeker, with little local anchoring experience and almost no recognizability in this market.
But Morse said trying to lure Wilde to KTTV is simply an attempt to expand his anchor roster so that Channel 11 will be in a position to eventually increase the number of hours it broadcasts news each day. Morse has indicated that besides its two late-night broadcasts, KTTV is looking to create a supper-time newscast and perhaps a midday news as well.
Wilde, who has anchored KNBC's 4 p.m. newscast since 1982, said she was thrilled by Morse's offer, despite the fact that jumping from a network-owned-and-operated station to a Fox station that has savaged its news staff over the last few months might appear, on the surface at least, to be a step backward in her broadcasting career.
"There's a lot of ego in this industry and people commenting about whether you're going backward or forward," said Wilde, who, after giving birth last year, seems most concerned about staying in Los Angeles and procuring financial security for her family. "I don't care about that. I see each opportunity as a way to use my skills to report the news to the community. I don't care whether that opportunity is at an O & O (network-owned-and-operated station), an independent or on the radio."
Wilde said she would not be surprised if KNBC cut back its anchor staff at the conclusion of the November rating sweeps. She pointed out that NBC recently laid off 200 members of the National Assn. of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians and that KNBC may be feeling some pressure to make some cuts of its own.
One possible scenario had KNBC weekend anchor Colleen Williams moving to Wilde's spot on the 4 p.m. newscast opposite John Beard. Wilde also had teamed with Beard on the station's 6 p.m. news until being replaced by Linda Alvarez in September of last year.
"I am always concerned about not having a job when my contract expires," said Wilde, who has won a Golden Mike and a local Emmy for her work at Channel 4. "I think I've proven my value, and my top priority is to find someone who believes in me enough to give me a fair contract."