Tribute to Patti Burns hypocritical
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Kensington-Arnold teachers accept 3-year contract
- Rayburn man, 74, dies in Manor Township crash
- Video posted online captures Wilkinsburg child’s injuries
- New Kensington native competes for title of U.S. Army Europe’s best NCO
- Police chase ends with shooting in Bell Township; suspect wounded
- Starkey: Two amazing Pirates fans
- West Deer awaits ruling from Pennsylvania Ethics Commission
- Dogs brighten day at Ford City assisted-living facility
- Detectives looking into pair of shootings in Duquesne
- Number of jobs in high-tech industry outpace workers in Pittsburgh, nation
- Gilpin settles lawsuit with suspended police officers