Veteran KNBC-TV Channel 4 newscaster Paul Moyer, one of the last of a breed of well-paid and highly promoted local news anchors, confirmed his retirement Wednesday from the station at which he's worked for nearly a quarter-century.
"It's been a hell of a run," Moyer said in a brief phone interview. "I'm going to miss it, I'm going to miss it a lot. Any success I may have achieved I owe to the people of Southern California. I thank them for every one of those 37 years [in the L.A. market]. I was born and raised here. I will always love this place."
Moyer's decision follows speculation that his salary, estimated at more than $3 million a year, had been too costly for the station in a time of declining revenue and viewership industrywide. The move would allow the station to invest more resources into restructuring the news outlet, where Moyer co-anchors the 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts with longtime colleague Colleen Williams.
Moyer, whose last day has yet to be determined, would not comment on the reasons behind his unexpected announcement. The news anchor was reached during his vacation, which is scheduled to end a week from Monday.
The news comes as local stations continue to suffer double-digit drops in viewership, mostly linked to competition from the Internet and an ever-shrinking lead-in from network programming.
Like its parent network NBC, KNBC's news is struggling, ranking third in Los Angeles for the 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts among viewers ages 25 to 54. The station in those time periods trails market leader Univision Communications' Spanish-language KMEX-TV Channel 34 and second-ranked KABC-TV Channel 7, owned by Walt Disney Co.
Moyer's departure also means the end of an era as local news' most veteran team is disbanded. Moyer and Williams have been paired on the 11 p.m. newscast for 12 years, and on the 5 p.m. newscast for 16 years.
The newscaster, who attended Torrance High School, is regarded as the last of the so-called celebrity anchors that dominated Los Angeles television for decades. He was noted for conveying a warmth and authority in much the same fashion as the late Jerry Dunphy and Hal Fishman.
"It's an honor to be compared to those guys," said Moyer.
As was Fishman, who died in August 2007 after 30 years of anchoring for KTLA-TV Channel 5, Moyer is a licensed private pilot. And he had clout -- his parking spot at the Burbank-based studio that is headquarters for both KNBC and the West Coast arm of NBC -- is right next to that of "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.
"I think there's a handful of anchor people in this market who are identified with the evening news, and he is certainly one of them," said Judy Muller, an associate professor of journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. "Paul is a brand. The audience recognized him as their source for local news. To Paul's credit, he kept a lot of people tuning in for a lot of years. And he was one of the few celebrity anchors who . . . got off the anchor desk and did investigative pieces."
But the former ABC News correspondent added that Moyer was mostly likely a victim of weak ratings and dwindling financial fortunes for local stations. "The age of the high-paid celebrity anchors is not coming to an end just yet," she added. "But it certainly signals the end, especially considering this business climate."
Another high-profile anchor team, Ann Martin and Harold Greene, who had been local fixtures for more than three decades at two stations, were let go by KCBS-TV last year.
Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.