NBC4 news director Vickie Burns, the sometimes-abrasive executive who expanded the station with a digital news station, announced in an email to fellow employees Friday that she was leaving the station after a little more than a year and a half.
Burns' message to the Burbank newsroom said she was making the move of her own accord after discussions with Valari Staab, head of NBC's owned-and-operated stations, and Steve Carlston, general manager of NBC4, formerly known as KNBC-TV.
Several employees have quietly complained about what they said was Burns' sometimes-confrontational management style. Latinos in the news department expressed concern about losing status under the Burns regime. And Staab complained when she took over last year about NBC4's "sloppy" production.
Burns introduced California Nonstop, a 24-hour news and feature station on the outer reaches of the cable spectrum. Understaffed from the start, that initiative got less and less attention in recent months as the news operation refocused on improving core newscasts. Naysayers in the newsroom depicted California Nonstop as just part of a move to lighter content over more serious news.
Originally from Chicago, Burns said in her email she had "decided to move my career back to my roots," east of the Mississippi River. She talked in her email about pride in a number of initiatives, including California Nonstop and the relaunching of a midday newscast. She also touted a number of awards the NBC affiliate won during her tenure.
Burns had taken over for Steve Lange, another news director who drew the ire of some employees for his focus on light feature coverage. He brought in one of the "Real Housewives of Orange County" cast members to report one story.
One NBC executive in New York said this week that the network's Los Angeles affiliate had suffered from a lack of investment in recent years, a problem that he said should be corrected by Comcast's purchase of the network and the rest of NBCUniversal last year.
The executive, who asked not to be named discussing internal divisions, said former ABC veteran Staab was also determined to bring a harder news sensibility to all of NBCs affiliates. It was not immediately known who would replace Burns.
-- James Rainey
Photo: NBC studios in Burbank. Credit: David McNew / Getty Images