Laura Diaz, KABC-TV's lead female anchor on "Eyewitness News" and a mainstay at the station for nearly two decades, will join rival KCBS-TV in September in what is being called a key component of the merger between KCBS and KCAL-TV.
"Laura is absolutely the No. 1 female anchor in Los Angeles, and we have lured her to become the cornerstone in building the biggest duopoly in the nation," said Don Corsini, general manager of the two stations. "Laura knows the marketplace, and she has done an outstanding job at KABC for the last 19 years."
In addition to becoming the main anchor at KCBS, Diaz said she will make several appearances as a West Coast correspondent for CBS' prime-time newsmagazine "48 Hours" and will also be a news reader for the network's morning news. Diaz may also appear at times on sister station KCAL.
"It's interesting how life turns out," Diaz said Tuesday. "This is the chance of a lifetime. I will be a part of a dynamic news operation that will have the opportunity to cover more news and has an incredible stable of talent. I'm just thrilled at the opportunity."
Still to be determined are what newscasts Diaz will anchor, but Corsini said she will helm two shows a day. No further anchor changes are planned at this time, he said, though there is speculation her hiring will reduce the role of Gretchen Carr or Ann Martin.
Diaz said her last "Eyewitness News" appearance was on Friday, with management keeping her off the air Monday even though she was prepared to work. "I would have liked to say goodbye," she said. "I have nothing but respect for all the people at KABC. It was a wonderful place to work. They made me a nice offer, but Viacom-CBS offered me the opportunity of a lifetime." KABC officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Hiring Diaz is the most dramatic development yet in the merger of KCAL and KCBS, two stations owned by Viacom. Federal regulations prohibiting ownership of two TV stations in the same market were relaxed in 1999.
Questions linger as to whether Diaz can boost ratings at KCBS, which has traditionally trailed its rivals and experienced continuous management changes. Corsini pointed out that Diaz is a first-generation Mexican American who is extremely active in the Latino community and will be "a big plus" for the station.
Layoffs are anticipated as the stations consolidate, though it's not clear how deep they will go. Corsini said that the merging of the news operations is continuing: "We are building the best of the best teams. We've started by hiring the best and brightest of anchors. The power of the duopoly is that we will have bigger and better news coverage."
As part of the merger, KCAL is moving several departments into KCBS' Columbia Square location in Hollywood. The news staff is expected to relocate in September.