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Just six months after celebrating his 20th anniversary with WIVB, reporter-anchor Mylous Hairston abruptly resigned on Thursday.
The timing and circumstances surrounding Hairston’s departure from the Buffalo CBS-affiliate suggest a deep-seated rift with the station’s owner,LIN TV.
Hairston is the president of the local chapter of AFTRA and was the chief negotiator in recent labor discussions with LIN. According to Buffalo media reporter Alan Pergament, Hairston left after two long days of AFTRA negotiations with the station.
Last summer, LIN imposed a new mandate requiring reporters to learn how to shoot their own video.
WIVB general manager Chris Musial sent a terse email to staff announcing Hairston’s departure. “I appreciate his contributions over the years and wish him well and success in the future,” Musial wrote.
It appears that Hairston was the victim of LIN’s recent cost-cutting measures, as Pergament writes:
"Morale inside the station’s news department is said to be at its lowest level in years as LIN attempts to cut higher salaries and eliminate veterans so they can be replaced by cheaper people hired right out of college."
Over the years, Hairston endeared himself to Buffalo viewers with his affability and candor.
“I knew I would leave at some point this year,” veteran reporter-anchor Mylous-Hairston told The Buffalo News about his abrupt departure last week from WIVB. “I just decided now is the time. We talked about it on Wednesday and finalized it on Thursday. It came together quickly. I’ve been looking to do something different. I have nothing lined up.”
“These are tough times all over in the media field,” said Hairston. “It’s just very tough. As more work is piled on, people are struggling at times to maintain the quality. It’s more challenging than it’s ever been.”
Buffalo New reporter Jane Kwiatkowski wrote, Hairston said he was not asked to leave, nor was he forced out of his job. He would not confirm or deny reports that he had a severance agreement with the company. Chris Musial, WIVB station president and general manager, did not return a call seeking comment.
“We are still very far apart,” said Hairston, describing AFTRA’s negotiations with the station, “and we started talking in 2008. I had hoped we would have a deal by this point, but everything the union put out there, the company said no.”
Hairston’s presence at the bargaining table will be missed, said Mary Cavallaro, assistant national executive director for news and broadcasting for AFTRA.
“Mylous has been a strong voice and dedicated advocate for the AFTRA members at WIVB,” said Cavallaro, reached by phone on a train to New Jersey. “He will certainly be missed by his newsroom colleagues and the viewers.”
Former anchor Lisa Flynn talked with Hairston by phone Thursday shortly after he left the station.
“I was surprised that it happened, but not surprised at the reason,” Flynn told The News Friday night. “It’s not the same business as when he and I started 25 years ago, being asked to do more with less and compromising the quality of our product.”
Of continuing concern to union members is the right to assign camera and editing duties to reporters. Hairston said the station’s reporters had been trained to shoot and edit.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I actually went out Wednesday and shot my own video, which never made air. It was a struggle. It’s a different skill set. The last time I shot and edited video was when I was leaving Elmira in 1989.”
The Buffalo State College graduate started working at the station in August 1990, after television reporting stints in Syracuse and Elmira. He also worked in Buffalo on the radio for the former WYSL-AM and WPHD-FM.
Hairston, who has fully recovered after a minor heart attack and resulting stent surgery in the summer of 2009, plans to be at the gym early for his regular workout.
“Thursdays and Fridays are my days off,” he said. “And Saturday I’ll be at the gym at 7 o’clock. That’s when it’s going to hit me. I’m on vacation for as long as I want to be.”
Hairston, who said he has recently received a number of job offers, is mulling over his options. One thing is certain.
“I think I’m pretty much done with television,” he said. “The offers I was presented with were not in broadcasting. It’s not like I’ll go to Channel 2 or Channel 7 or some other outlet in town.”
Hairston’s swift departure prevented an on-air farewell, but word spread quickly on Facebook on Thursday evening, so quickly that Hairston was concerned his 82-year-old mother would learn about his departure before he could tell her in person.
“I was afraid with everything on Facebook, that she would hear something before I could tell her, and that she would be worried,” Hairston said. “After I explained it to her, the first words out of her mouth were: 'So when are you going to get a job?' "