Joe Coscia, KDKA's news director since late October, has abruptly left the station. Newsroom colleagues said they were surprised and disappointed by the departure, confirmed in a memo from general manager Gary Cozen, who is on vacation.
Reached at his Pittsburgh home yesterday, Coscia said, "At this point, I have no comment. I am leaving the station, effective immediately. ... Terms of my departure are in negotiations." Coscia said he was pursuing other options and would be leaving Pittsburgh today.
He is a week away from selling his house in Albany, N.Y., although Coscia hoped to maintain homes in both states because he has college-age children who could benefit from tuition rates granted to New York residents. The newsman said he would miss the "friendship and camaraderie" of the newsroom.
"They're just one terrific group of people. KDKA as a whole is a terrific television station and continues to be a great television station."
Coscia came to KDKA from the CBS affiliate in Albany, N.Y. In November, insiders said his arrival had boosted morale at the station. In an election night rarity, he had even visited reporters posted around town at various campaign headquarters.
In December, an upbeat Coscia had compared KDKA's news operations to a classic Volvo. "It's not broke," he told the Post-Gazette. "It just needs a tune-up. Then we'll get back out there and drive another million miles."
He was concerned with making content consistent inside and outside of sweeps periods, with providing regular spots for reports by franchise players such as Dave Crawley and Bill Flanagan and with boosting the audience for the morning news.
So, why did he leave? No one's talking on the record, least of all the station.
It issued a two-sentence press release that said Coscia had "departed" KDKA-TV and that Michael Machi, senior executive producer of broadcasting, was being reinstated as assistant news director effective immediately. That job had been eliminated in a newsroom realignment after Coscia joined the station.
Although Coscia generally was well-liked, considered knowledgeable and a strong motivator, it is no secret that Cozen (like many general managers) is a strong-willed person who takes the ratings very seriously. The February sweeps ratings found WPXI the winner at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. It was only the second time in history that WPXI had beaten KDKA at 6 p.m.
Cozen has vigorously argued that contests help to tilt the numbers. The ratings are important because they help to determine what stations can charge for future ads.
Coscia is the fourth news director at the CBS station in four years. Sue McInerney, KDKA's news director for a decade, left to become news director of the CBS station in Miami in May 1997. She was replaced by Mark Berryhill, who quit in June 1998 for a job in Boston. Berryhill was succeeded by Jeff Weissbart, a KDKA veteran who still works at the station and handed the reins to Coscia in October.