"This was a blindside," says Kathrine Nero, WCPO-TV's Good Morning Tri-State anchor who was let go by WCPO-TV Monday.
"I was in the middle of a contract. It was a three-year contact. I had a year to go. They decided to exercise their option. This was not my decision," Nero told me Tuesday afternoon.
The station announced her departure to the staff Tuesday. She was told Monday after the morning newscast that her option would not be picked up. That's why she wasn't on Channel 9 Tuesday morning.
The decision was not popular on Facebook. Her announcement that she was gone from WCPO-TV got 188 comments in 30 minutes Tuesday. In an hour, she had 446 comments and 60 shares. By two hours, she had 800 comments and 136 shares.
This is not how I expected it to end. After 20 years here, 15 of them waking up early to bring you the news, I am now unexpectedly looking for work.
I want to thank each of you for the kind words over the years. You have embraced me like a local to the point I feel like I am one now! I've literally grown up here. I've gotten married, had two beautiful girls, survived cancer and made some incredible friends along the way.
I hope that you know how much I've enjoyed my job, spending my mornings with you. Now, I'll be sleeping in and sharing that morning coffee with my family. They have no idea what they're in for!
Whatever is next for me, remember - just as you've been for me for two decades, I'll always be on your side.
Social media comments eased the pain for Nero, a Memphis native hired as Channel 9's weekend sports reporter/anchor in 1998. She moved to the morning newscasts 15 years ago. The comments teach us how we come to know and love the TV personalities who deliver information to us every morning, noon or night. That lesson was re-inforced in 2012, when she received stacks of "get well soon" cards from viewers after her breast cancer diagnosis. She'll take them home Wednesday, when she packs up her things at the station.
"At my desk right now, I have a bag full of cards from when I had cancer. I'm the type of person who throws out birthday cards, but I kept those. Many are from people who I don't know," she says.
"I've had 25-year-olds tell me that they've watched me their whole life. It (television) is a very intimate relationship, being in their home all the time. "
When I heard rumors that she was terminated Monday, I left her a voicemail asking if she wanted to thank her viewers. She called me back Tuesday soon after posting her Facebook message. Yes, she wanted to make it clear to all her fans she didn't want to leave, and that she wanted to thank all of her loyal viewers.
She didn't see it coming. In fact, WCPO posted a story on its website celebrating her 20th anniversary at the station Jan. 9. The story began: "Twenty years ago, WCPO gained a class act." It ended with this line: "Thank you, Kathrine! Here's to 20 more years!"
Then things changed. Chris Riva, her Good Morning Tri-State co-anchor, was let go in March. On Monday, Nero was told she was out, with a year to go on her contract.
"They told me they were going in a different direction. They are well within their rights. But after 20 years, they might have handled it better," she says.
Jeff Brogan, WCPO-TV general manager, just responded to my email. "I can confirm that Kathrine Nero is no longer with WCPO. We decided to go in another direction with this anchor position after much thought and evaluation of Good Morning Tri-State."
Why the change? "I can’t comment on personnel matters."
Do you expect to go back to a male/female morning anchor team as you had until March of this year? Or continue with a solo anchor? "This hasn’t been determined. We will share information on changes to the show when we’re ready to announce it."
Chip Mahaney, WCPO-TV news director, sent this email to the staff Tuesday afternoon:
"I want to let you know that Kathrine Nero is no longer with WCPO. As Jeff and I evaluate the current status and future of Good Morning Tri-State, we decided we need to go in another direction with this anchor position. This was a difficult decision that we made after much thought and evaluation. Kathrine has worked at WCPO for 20 years, and has anchored GMTS for 15 of those years. She has been a big part of the station and our morning show in particular. I will personally miss working with her, as I know many of you will."
Nero isn't sure what she'll do. She may look at careers outside of television."I want to keep my options open," she says.
All I know for certain is that Nero will enjoy evenings with her husband and two daughters. She won't be waking up at 1:40 a.m.
"I will be getting a little bit more sleep," she says.