Kelly Lange, a local news fixture who started her career at KNBC-TV as its "weather girl" in 1971, is leaving the station when her contract expires this month. Her last broadcast will air on Wednesday.
Both Lange and the station stressed that money was not a factor in the decision, which was made by the anchor herself--spurred, according to Lange, in part by a bout with dehydration that briefly left her hospitalized last month.
"It kind of was a wake-up call, that if I'm ever going to [pursue other opportunities], it's a good time," Lange said.
KNBC news director Nancy Bauer Gonzales said station officials "haven't even begun the process" of considering how to replace Lange, who currently anchors the 4 p.m. news. That newscast currently tops the local ratings, despite the fact chief rival KABC-TV gets a stronger lead-in audience to its news from Oprah Winfrey's syndicated talk show at 3 p.m.
Lange's responsibilities were reduced by the station a little over a year ago when Colleen Williams replaced her on the high-profile 11 p.m. newscast, paired with Paul Moyer.
In addition, the television industry in general faces an economic crunch, forcing all local broadcasters to explore ways to reduce overhead.
From that perspective, Lange's departure--if not initiated by KNBC--may not be entirely unwelcome. Sources say Lange was one of the highest-paid anchors in Los Angeles, with a contract well over $500,000 per year.
While saying she looked forward to a lifestyle change, Lange added that she "will do more television--maybe [something] different, maybe not. I've got to take a little time and think about it."
The anchor has already branched out into other areas, with her second novel, "Gossip," recently published by Simon & Schuster. Her first book, "Trophy Wife," was released in 1995.
Born Kelly Snyder, Lange has frequently recounted the story of how she broke into local news, winning a KABC radio station contest to become its helicopter traffic reporter. She later joined KNBC doing the weather, a job she held before she was promoted to anchor in 1975.
"NBC had never had a woman anchoring the news," Lange said, adding that executives resisted her transition from weather, which ultimately took place after a competing offer was tendered by KABC. Even then, it created a stir in the newsroom.
"It took two years for people to realize I could do it," said Lange, who was replaced on weather by Pat Sajak, now the host of "Wheel of Fortune."
Despite her nearly three decades as an on-air presence in Los Angeles, Lange has steadfastly refused to divulge her age, though she admits to having a daughter in her 30s.
"My mother doesn't remember, and she was there," Lange joked. "She doesn't tell her age either."