|Maureen Bunyan - 2004|
According to The Washington Post, the station’s management decided it no longer needed Bunyan, 71, a pioneering figure who was among the first African American women in the nation to anchor a local evening newscast in the late 1970s. And just that quickly, Bunyan met the fate that has befallen other members of her once-familiar news team at WJLA since Sinclair bought the station in mid-2014.
First it was Arch Campbell, WJLA’s entertainment reporter and a 40-year veteran of local news. Then it was veteran sportscaster Tim Brant, then anchor Leon Harris. Anchor Gordon Peterson — one of the deans of Washington TV news — retired in 2014 rather than work for Sinclair.
Sinclair, based outside Baltimore, has grown rapidly over the past dozen or so years by buying TV station chains across the country. It now stands as the largest operator in the nation, with 173 outlets spread over 81 markets. Its $985 million purchase of WJLA, and seven other stations owned by Allbritton Communications, of Arlington, was one of the largest of its many deals.
But all that acquisition, fueled largely with borrowed money, has saddled Sinclair with some $4.93 billion in liabilities, necessitating a sharp eye on overhead at its many stations.
The rapid departure of so many familiar faces at a station is unusual in the TV news business, for which conventional wisdom holds that audiences flock to familiar anchors and personalities. Stability is a virtue; anchors at big-city stations tend to stay for several years.
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