Almost 30 Lose Jobs at KARK, KLRT as TV Owners Consolidate

Almost 30 employees of two Little Rock television stations are being laid off this week as the stations' owners consolidate operations.

According to a KLRT insider, at least 20 employees of Fox affiliate KLRT-TV, Channel 16, were told they would no longer be needed. Another source said that as many as eight people at NBC affiliate KARK-TV, Channel 4, are losing their jobs.

At KARK, the layoffs include on-air personalities Wendy Suares, Adam Rodriguez and Jonathan Athens. At least five more off-air employees are also being laid off, the source said. And at KLRT, sports anchor David Raath and news director Ed Trauschke were among those leaving.

Mike Vaughn, general manager of the consolidated stations, would not confirm the number of layoffs, and would only confirm that Trauschke was among them. He said most of those losing their jobs will continue to work through the end of the week.

"What took place today in the reduction in force is it. It's a one-wave deal," Vaughn said.

The layoffs come about a month after Mission Broadcasting of Westlake, Ohio, closed on its $60 million purchase of KLRT, a Fox affiliate, and its sister station, CW affiliate KASN-TV, Channel 38, from Newport Television of Kansas City, Mo. The company immediately laid off Chuck Spohn, the stations' long-time general manager.

As part of the purchase, Mission has entered into an operating agreement with Nexstar Broadcasting of Irving, Texas, which owns KARK and MyNetworkTV affiliate KARZ-TV, Channel 42. Nexstar has not elaborated on the specifics of the agreement, but the deal effectively gives Nexstar control of the Mission stations.

On Tuesday, Vaughn, a Nexstar employee who has been general manager of KARK, said all stations will soon be consolidated to the Victory Building on Capitol Avenue in downtown Little Rock, which has been the headquarters for KARK and KARZ. The Mission stations are moving from their former offices and studios in the Metroplex on Colonel Glenn Road in Little Rock.

The first newscasts from the consolidated facilities will air on Saturday, "with that being basically the first day of the rest of our lives, as far as that goes," he said.

KLRT also plans to unveil its first morning show on Monday, Vaughn said. The show, which will air from 7-9 a.m. weekdays, will be anchored by Deedra Wilson and Greg Dee, two KARK news personalities.

KLRT will also change its weekday newscast lineup, canceling its newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. It will instead air a half-hour show beginning at 5:30 p.m. and an hour-long show at 9 p.m.

Vaughn said the Nexstar and Mission stations will retain their respective evening anchor lineup: on KLRT, that's founding anchors Donna Terrell and Kevin Kelly, and on KARK, it's Bob Clausen and Jessica Dean.

"We will be looking to allocate the resources that we have to protect both brands -- both NBC's and Fox's," Vaughn said. "We want to protect the brand and the talent."