KSBY management defends Cipolla decision

May 25, 2010

Many Central Coast viewers have been writing to KSBY to express their frustration over the impending departure of news anchor Tony Cipolla after 20 years on the local airwaves, prompting a detailed response from KSBY general manager Evan Pappas.

Pappas contends KSBY offered Cipolla a higher than average salary while allowing him to take two-to-three-hour dinner breaks and work less than 35 hours a week.

“We had all intentions to secure him [Cipolla] for KSBY and had an offer in front of him on the $100,000 range, well above market average and above our competitor’s pay,” wrote Pappas in an email to one angry South County viewer. “It was his choice not to counter and/or compromise in signing a new contract and shop his salary to our competitors and other companies.

“He was advised in his last contract four years ago that his wages would need to be back to anchor only wages, not anchor and news director wages (which is when his salary jumped almost double the market wages for anchors). He was going to leave four years ago and we compromised. We are again trying to compromise and he has advised same salary or higher only,” the KSBY response continues.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said that Cipolla had been making $160,000 and was asked to take a pay cut down to $110,000.

Pappas goes on to argue that KSBY could not pay the salary of two jobs for one. The general manager suggests that Cipolla had “a very rewarding position” at KSBY. The station, according to the email, provided Cipolla with two-to-three-hour dinner breaks each night and work weeks of less then 35 hours so that he could spend time with his family.

KSBY management described Cipolla as an “anchor/reader” who is supported by the work of “50 other people who actually build the news each day.” Pappas promised to “work hard to find the right fit and replacement so [viewers] can enjoy the news with our team.”

Thursday, June 3 is slated to be Cipolla’s last day at KSBY.


Don’t believe Pappas! A friend of mine works at KSBY, and told me he will say anything and do anything to make himself look good. He’s a bully with a Napoleon complex. Morale is at all time low at KSBY. Everyone hates it their and hates Pappas even more. He makes everyone at KSBY sign a confidential agreement to keep them in check. He claims it’s company policy, but the old GM under the same ownership never made them sign anything.

Richard Gearheart need to watch out. When the ratings drop after Tony leaves, Richard will get all the blame. Richard has been at KSBY forever and I’m sure makes good money. Getting rid of him and his high salary makes sense.


Cipolla is an employee in a contract dispute. Big deal. He reads the news, there is no reason this story IS news. It looks like KSBY benefits from “all publicity is good publicity.”

Hope he lands a nice job somewhere. There was a nice guy at the anchor desk before Cipolla, there will be one after he leaves. However it is grossly unprofessional to make this contract dispute a matter of public ping-pong. Someone is taking a page ot of the NBC-Leno/Conan playbook.


I think since Tony has made so much of his situation public, then KSBY should respond.

Reality checks can be brutal.


A good friend of mine who works at KSBY sent me this from a local blog.

The King of KSBY

As a former producer for KSBY, I was asked to write, anonymously, for this blog awhile ago. But it wasn’t until I heard of Tony Cipolla’s imminent departure that I felt I had something to say. KSBY’s General Manager released a statement to the Trib, saying Tony was offered a 40% pay cut because he no longer acted as news director as well as anchor, and had not done so since 2005. If that was the real reason, wouldn’t they have cut his salary 5 years ago, when a news director was hired?

Not only that, saying Tony shouldn’t be paid for doing two jobs, because he only does one, is ridiculous. Anyone who has watched a KSBY broadcast knows everyone there wears multiple hats. And anyone who has worked at KSBY knows doing at least two jobs is standard. It seems the station is perpetually “short-staffed”. In my experience, Tony’s duties do not just include reading the scripts on air – he also helps chose what stories are covered each day, what order the stories appear in the show, how the story is written. He copy-edits scripts, fact-checks scripts, and he writes quite a few scripts from scratch as well. When the news director is away, Tony manages the news meetings. Tony’s desk is actually in the newsroom, unlike the news director’s, so he is there for all the questions that come up in a day. Tony teaches and advises the entire newsroom and everyone respects his opinion. There’s nothing better than getting a compliment from Cipolla. He also stays at the station until after the 11pm show, far later than the news director, who is gone by 7pm. So who do you think acts as news director, when the actual news director is at home with his family at 10pm on a Wednesday night? You guessed it – Tony.

Even if the above were not true, it would still be a shame for management to force a pay cut on Tony, after he has worked so hard for the station for the last 20 years. Tony managed to bring the same enthusiasm to work, day in and day out, that most people lose after the first decade or so on a job. If I remember correctly, 3 years ago, when Tony accepted a 25% pay cut from the station, he also accepted a significant change to his schedule. Instead of anchoring the 5pm and 6pm shows, and actually reporting during the day, he was moved to anchoring the 5pm, 6pm and 11pm shows. As a devoted family man and father of three, I am sure it was difficult for Tony and his family to adjust to this new schedule. But Tony never said anything negative and never let it affect his work ethic. If anything, he took on more and more responsibilities as the newsroom staff got smaller and smaller, without a word of complaint. And that brings me to my next point.

Why do the good guys always have to finish last? Tony is a true gentleman. In all the time I worked with him, I never once saw Tony lose his temper. If you’ve worked in live TV, you know how rare that is. When things go wrong live on air, screaming is fairly standard, in any newsroom. But not Tony. He is the one who stays calm. He is the one who comes up with a solution. He is the one who pulls you aside with words of encouragement, when he senses you are having a tough day. He is the one who stands up for the stories that matter to the community. And for all those reasons, Tony is the king of KSBY.

Now, to be fair, it is a tough time to be in the news business – and KSBY isn’t the only station looking to save money anyway it can. But management’s efforts the last few years to bring in viewers aren’t making the station better – they are just taking away everything that once made it special. It used to be the local news that you could gather around to watch with your family. You might see your neighbor on the show, or an old friend, and, at the very least, you knew that you would learn a little bit about what was going on in your community. The stories were longer, no one had even heard of HD, and there was still sponge-paint on the studio walls. Now it’s all about being fast and flashy, quantity over quality.

But I don’t think the Central Coast cares about flashy or fancy. We live where we live because we want to. If we wanted to live in L.A., we would. We don’t. If we wanted big-city-style news, we’d turn on CNN. We don’t. We want the KSBY we used to love – the “spirit of the Central Coast” – and we want Tony, too.

Long live the king.


Many years ago Tony interviewed me. However, to this day, when he sees me in public he still gives me a smile and says hello. It’s that kind of rapport that he brings to the anchor chair. He will be missed and I hope he stays local – KEYT are you listening?


Pappas should just keep his mouth shut and fingers away from the keyboard on this issue. In the end, if he would just shut up, people will forget about Tony Cipolla, He is just a news reader its not like he tucks in your kids and reads them bedtime stories. Ive never met Tony but by all accounts he is a very nice guy so I dont want this to seem like Im attacking him, I think he is good at what he does but having said that, people just hte change but in the end they always accept it. Remeber how much the community reacted when Sharon Graves left? (I did meet her on several ooccasions and she too was a very nice person) Oh people were up in arms, for awhile and then they adjusted. Besides where are you going to go to get your local news? Santa Maria?? Santa Barbara?

Tony is going to be fine, KSBY is going to be fine and the viewers will be just fine. Tony is a nice guy but you’ll get over it.

There is one other thing, if this continues to be a public issue Im going to be forced to wonder whether or not Tony is actually going to leave at all, This could all be in the public because its relevance has something to do with some sort of negotiation thats going on, ugly as it may be.


Pappas is destroying the local familiarity of the news program. When most of the other stations have a steady flow of changing reporters on the news, KSBY had Tony as the face of the news. Sharing the details of the negotiations was really a low blow, in my opinion. Bottom line, his salary was being cut. The second issue is his 2-3 hour dinner break and working a 35 hour work week. I would hate to have a long break in the middle of my shift, even if it did help me see my children. Tony is contract salaried so I am sure there would be many times when he worked over 35 hours.

The final note is that if the General Manager thinks that all that his news anchor does, is read the news, he is not in touch with the viewers. People like Pappas are driving us viewers away in hoards and replacing them with on-line news. The station owners should look at replacing Pappas and renegotiate Cipolla’s contract before it is too late.


I feel like the only central coast viewer that doesn’t have a problem with this. As I have stated before Tony seems like a nice and admirable guy. I have NO problem with him but I don’t understand the viewer outrage.

Let’s put this in some perspective. The guy is going to get 100k for less than 35 hours a week for reading script for a four year degree.

An average doctor gets about 150-250k a year working 40+ hours, being on call and having an eight year degree, plus residency.

Interesting that people will get all mad at doctors as money grubing and greedy, yet have no problem (even to the point of being outraged and writing in) with an anchor salary being 200+??

I don’t get it.


I was struck by that, too. I assume Pappas was writing to a party in interest, not to a disgruntled viewer.