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Consumer advocate Sawyer may be leaving KDKA

Wednesday, June 30, 1999

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

After 22 years at KDKA-TV, reporter Lynn Sawyer apparently is leaving the station. Her contract expires today and, as of yesterday afternoon, had not been renewed.

Yesterday, Sawyer would only say, "We have differences, and we're working to resolve them." If those differences are not resolved, today will be her final day.

Jeff Weissbart, KDKA's news director, would not comment yesterday but anticipated issuing a statement today.

Sawyer, long a consumer advocate for KDKA, joined the station in 1977. When Channel 2 hired one-time competitor Yvonne Zanos, it promoted the idea of assembling a consumer team, with Sawyer, Zanos, Bill Flanagan and Wayne Van Dine.

"With Lynn, Bill, Wayne and now Yvonne, we will give KDKA-TV viewers the most comprehensive and reliable coverage of consumer issues anywhere," Gary Cozen, the station's general manager, said in a press release in September 1997. That same statement called Sawyer's consumer reports, which have covered such topics as car dangers and repairs, a "cornerstone to the nightly newscasts."

Since the early '80s, Sawyer has produced "Waiting Child," a feature that tries to find homes for children with special needs. It has emerged as the single most successful tool in placing children through the Three Rivers Adoption Council, helping more than 1,000 youngsters find permanent homes.

Sawyer also has been an anchor -- working on the noon news with Bill Burns in the early '80s -- talk-show host and general assignment reporter. She was honored with a Golden Quill for reports about the dangers of the Ford Pinto, and her "Waiting Child" work brought her the Pittsburgh Police Women's Recognition Award and the Health and Human Services Award.

A native of Baldwin, Sawyer graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in urban affairs and pre-law. Married and the mother of four children, she and her husband live in the South Hills.

In November, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists accused KDKA of unfair labor practices over a benefits policy for part-time employees, including Sawyer. AFTRA filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging KDKA threatened those employees with loss of benefits.

Mark Wirick, executive director of AFTRA, said yesterday, "We eventually dropped that because the company acknowledged it had an obligation to bargain with us about those issues." AFTRA is trying to resolve the issue in negotiations with KDKA. Its contract expired Aug. 31, and the parties are working under an extension.

Sawyer's departure and the planned retirement of noon anchor Ray Tannehill next month mean the station is losing two veteran employees.

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