Ron Fineman follows up today with reporting on his scoop last week that KNBC reporter Kyung Lah and "Today in L.A." producer Jeff Soto got fired for having an affair—and 11 p.m. news producer Jim Bunner was axed for not telling on them. The issue is apparently the potential for a producer to give a reporter preferential treatment. It gets complicated, but basically Fineman's story is that when Lah was covering the Scott Peterson trial up north, she sent Soto a personal note that tipped off newsroom gossips. It somehow got to Bunner, who showed it to weatherman Danny Romero. Both are friends of Lah's husband, who works elsewhere at NBC Burbank. They sat on the info for two months, then Romero confronted Lah and told her to confess to her husband. She did.
The husband moved in with Romero, then a couple of weeks later apparently went to station management. General Manager Paula Madison fired Lah, Soto and Bunner, who confirmed it all for Fineman:
Why Bunner? According to him, Madison felt that as a manager (11pm newscast producer) he should have reported this affair as soon as he had reason to believe it was going on. So, Bunner says he was fired for keeping quiet. But he offers no apologies for that. He didn't want to see all of this happen to his pal. He tells me he "took a bullet" for him. He also disputes that 11pm producer is really a management position.
Here's some of the reaction Fineman picks up from the Channel 4 newsroom:
"It was like someone had died in the newsroom, the day this all hit. Two of the most talented people who we'd seen for a long time -- gone, just like that. Everyone was murmuring about it and talking among themselves."...
"I think Kyung Lah and Jeff Soto got railroaded by inept management. Kyung is one of the hardest working reporters I have ever known... and one of the best too."
"Jeff also did a good job with "Today in LA." Like many producers he could be a bit headstrong, but KNBC can ill-afford to lose three very talented people at a time when their ratings have fallen along with the quality of some shows."
"KNBC can't afford to lose three of its most talented people."
Fineman links KNBC's sensitivity to being sued by ex-weatherman Christopher Nance, who was fired ostensibly because of his relationship with an intern. Nance alleges he was fired for being black and for practicing his religion.