Longtime WNYT anchor Lydia Kulbida has lost her job on the Menands television station’s top-rated newscasts.
Kulbida, who has been with “NewsChannel 13” for nearly nine years, was told Tuesday her contract will not be renewed. She was among the last of 18 station employees released in a flurry of layoffs that began last week.
“This is a tough decision here, it’s just in a cost-cutting mode, but we have opted to not renew Lydia’s contract,” said Stephen P. Baboulis, WNYT’s vice president and general manager. “She’s done a great job for us. This kind of thing has been happening around the country in markets everywhere, and basically we just have to get our workforce and the cost of gathering the news in line with the revenues that are available, and sometimes the choices that you have to make in those situations are very difficult to make.”
Kulbida, a native of the Bronx, said in an e-mail sent Tuesday night she would not have any immediate comment.
She landed her first on-air job in Glens Falls in 1990 — anchoring and reporting at the city’s TV-8 station — and joined WNYT in January 2000 after working broadcast jobs in Buffalo, Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass. She replaced Kari Lake and first worked with longtime WNYT anchor Ed Dague. She had been working weeknights at 6 and 11 p.m. with co-anchor Jim Kambrich.
“It’s obviously very distressing,” said Bill Lambdin, a station reporter and president of Local 51021 of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. “She’s one of the public faces, but there’s a total of 18 people who have been dropped or are being dropped at Channel 13. The general manger held a meeting this afternoon and he used the number 18. Not everyone is in the bargaining unit; some of them work in departments that aren’t represented by the union.”
Two other on-air personalities, John Allen and Kelly Lynch, also have been affected. Allen, a station employee since 1996, has accepted a severance package. Lynch had been working part-time as WNYT’s midday news anchor and will leave the station rather than accept another part-time assignment. “She’s got a few days more to work in the month of December,” Baboulis said. “She’ll wrap up her time here shortly.”
Lambdin, who termed the Kulbida layoff “shocking and disappointing,” said the broadcaster talked to some co-workers on her way out of the office. “It was not an organized speech,” Lambdin said. “It was just talking to people in the parking lot. I would point out to you her contract does not expire until the middle of January, and she may very well appear on the air some more.”
“We’re talking about that,” Baboulis said. “Right now, I’ve given her a few days off so we get removed from the situation today.”
Lambdin noted Kulbida has won popularity surveys conducted by other media organizations.
“From that standpoint, it’s quite puzzling she would be the person chosen to be dropped,” Lambdin said. “Anybody of the air staff who were dropped would be extremely unfortunate; we believe all our co-workers are doing their jobs well. Some of the people here are wondering. The thought process is elusive.”
“She’s well regarded by all of us,” Baboulis said of Kulbida. “It’s just a result of the times. It’s just something where we have to make some tough decisions that you don’t really want to make. She’s done fine work for us, I think everyone affected by this situation has done good work for us. We basically just have to re-size and rethink what we’re doing here to make sure we can still be viable to serve the community with news and information and public services and there are casualties here that no one feels good about.”
Baboulis could not say whether Kambrich, Kulbida’s co-anchor on the evening newscasts, will work solo.
“We haven’t gotten past the point of making the decision and talking about it,” he said. “We’ll be talking about our future plans at a future time.”
Dague, contacted at his Stillwater home, said he believes the viewing public loses when high-profile reporters and anchors lose their jobs. He also said news quality suffers.
“It’s happening all across the country,” Dague said. “Anyone who makes any kind of salary reminiscent of the days when television news had some money is departing. With them go the experience and the tenure, the institutional memory. You wind up with a bunch of kids out of journalism school new to the area who never heard of Erastus Corning or Frank Duci.”
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