TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Tribute to Patti Burns hypocritical

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001
 

The lengthy tribute KDKA-TV paid on its newscasts to Patti Burns after her untimely death certainly was fitting given the former anchorwoman's enormous popularity. It also was highly hypocritical.

Yet no one fleetingly familiar with the cannibalistic climate of TV newsrooms should be surprised by the station's two-faced treatment of its one-time star.

Long one of Pittsburgh's most recognizable faces, Burns, 49, succumbed to cancer Wednesday at her Shadyside home.

In the 20 minutes or so spent summarizing Burns' career, KDKA lovingly lauded her longevity at the station. Touted that tuning in to Patti during her various stints as noon, 6 and 11 p.m. anchor had been a Pittsburgh tradition.

And virtually ignored how the queen of KD Country, after 23 years at the station, was unceremoniously cut loose in 1997.

The Mt. Lebanon native joined the station in 1974 after a brief stint as a TV reporter in Dallas. Within two years, she was anchoring the noon news with her father, legendary local newscaster Bill Burns.

The nation's only father-daughter news team continued until the elder Burns retired in 1988. He died in 1997, about nine months after Patti and KDKA went their separate ways.

The parting was not particularly pleasant.

Friction between Burns and station management developed during the mid-1990s. During contract negotiations in 1996, the station decided it no longer wanted the veteran anchor on a full-time basis.

"They told me, 'You're linked to tradition and longevity, and we're not going in that direction,'" Burns told this newspaper in December 1996.

The station offered to extend her contract, but only on a part-time basis. At the time, Burns said she would have had to accept a pay cut of more than 50 percent and a substantially reduced on-air presence.

When an agreement on a new pact could not be reached, KDKA sent Burns a notice terminating her employment, effective the date of her contract's expiration - Jan. 31, 1997.

What happened to Burns was not uncommon.

The TV news business frequently eats its own. The industry digests middle-aged anchors at the height of their earning power, anchors who may not be popular enough among the younger audiences coveted by stations and their advertisers.

But what happened next was not as common. Two weeks before Burns was scheduled to depart, news director Sue McInerny abruptly told her the next day's broadcast would be her last.

Didn't exactly leave Burns a whole lot of time to prepare farewell remarks to her loyal viewers.

Burns said back then that McInerny told her that KDKA "had to get on with the transition." At the time, McInerny said, "Since (Burns) chose to move on, there was no reason to make her work until the very last day of her contract."

Her commercial broadcast career effectively over, Burns moved on. She founded her own media production company, performed charitable work and contributed to public television station WQED's "On Q" news magazine.

Until April, when she was diagnosed with the disease that would kill her.

The tribute provided Burns by the hypocritical station that spurned her was tantamount to a royal funeral. Pity it took her death for the queen of KD Country to finally return from exile.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Several McKeesport party-goers arrested for hindering shooting investigation
  2. Aldi starts to fill Mon Valley posts
  3. Elizabeth Forward community offers support to family of drowning victim
  4. Narcotics officers thwart drug deal
  5. Victim still hospitalized; McKeesport bar shooting hearing postponed
  6. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  7. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  8. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  9. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  10. Ownerless emu finds ‘buddy’ at new Greensburg home
  11. Judge lets Ten Commandments monument stand