Claudia Coffey out at WHAS-11
Claudia Coffey out at WHAS-11

On March 27, she nabbed an interview with a victim of the Waterfront Park violence and anchored WHAS-TV’s 4 p.m. newscast. And then she was gone.

Claudia Coffey isn’t talking about why she’s no longer with WHAS-TV.  She told her 4,995 Facebook  friends via this status update:

Dear Friends,

I wanted to let you personally know I am no longer employed at WHAS TV and I look forward to the next stage in my career. Thank you so much for all your words and support… it means so much. I’ll be sure to keep you updated… so continue to follow me here and on twitter @claudia_coffey.

When I talked to her April 16, Coffey said she couldn’t elaborate on the circumstances of her departure, but assured me she’s not leaving town, that she doesn’t have a new job, and that she’s enjoying the love and support of social media followers.

“This is my home, I love Louisville,” she said. “This community is important to me, and I want to stay here. “

Such is the state of employment in TV news.

WHAS-TV was a part of the Gannett acquisition of Belo Corp. properties in 2013. In addition to its newspaper holdings (including The Courier-Journal), Gannett controls 42 TV stations, many in Top 25 markets. The company has a reputation for running lean media operations, as you know if you’ve paid attention to the regular layoffs at the C-J during the last several years.

Local media wags I’ve talked to have been expecting cuts at WHAS-TV since the Belo sale was finalized last year. However, with the exception of the surprise departure of news director Mark Neerman last September (who also remains in Louisville), there have been no layoffs there. In fact, the news operation is advertising six open positions.

The station had a new news director hired in February, but the deal fell through when the Phoenix-based hire, Josh Eure, was arrested on a DUI charge.

So let’s speculate, as many insiders have in conversations with me, that Coffey’s contract was up and that she was unceremoniously asked to leave. It’s certainly unusual to have anyone voluntarily leave an anchor desk at any of the four local TV stations. Just take a look at how long WHAS-TV anchors have been there: Doug Proffitt and Melissa Swan have been at WHAS since the 1980s.

From Today's Woman
From Today’s Woman

Coffey likely carried a high salary. When she came to WHAS-TV four years ago from a station in Washington, D.C., she had anchoring experience in New Orleans, Milwaukee and D.C. She worked to become a fixture in her hometown, volunteering for various charities and sharing personal stories about her son (who has a rare disease, Long QT Syndrome) on the air. Last year, she was voted “Most Admired Woman in Media” by Today’s Woman magazine. In 2012, Business First put her on its “40 under 40” list.

And unlike some other on-air personalities, Coffey is a big advocate of social media, frequently posting to huge groups of followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Originally hired as reporter and part-time anchor, she was chosen to co-anchor the station’s new 4 p.m. newscast in 2011. And in ratings competition, WHAS-TV’s 4 p.m. newscast has not come close to passing WDRB-TV’s news dominance at that hour. In February sweeps, WDRB earned a 6.5 to WHAS’ 3.8 in that hour.

So maybe it was ratings, or a high salary, or simply timing that led to Coffey’s departure at WHAS-TV.

Rick Redding is a Louisville native who’s been a part of the local news scene since the 1990s. He’s written for Business First, LEO and other publications. In 2006, he launched TheVilleVoice.com, and was later voted the city’s Best Blogger by Louisville Magazine. In 2011, LEO readers voted him “Best Local Feature Writer.” He’s also appeared frequently as a guest on local TV and Radio shows, discussing local media and issues. He operates a local site, LouisvilleKY.com.


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