DMA 55: WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON, PA

WNEP News Loses Two Veterans To Buyouts

Early retirement means viewers in Northeastern Pennsylvania are not going to be seeing anchor Marisa Burke and chief meteorologist Tom Clark after more than 30 years each on the Tribune-operated ABC affiliate.

 

At WNEP Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa. (DMA 55), viewers have come to expect familiar faces delivering their news. But the Tribune Broadcasting-operated ABC affiliate has seen its main female co-anchor leave, and is preparing to say goodbye to its chief meteorologist. Both have taken early retirements in the wake of company-wide buyouts of veteran employees.

Marisa Burke, 56, noon anchor and 6 p.m. producer/co-anchor, left the station on Oct. 28. Tom Clark, 64, chief meteorologist, will leave in late December.

Burke started in 1984 as morning co-anchor/reporter. She became the station’s 6 and 11 p.m. co-anchor in 1990. During her 26 years anchoring at 6 p.m. — all of them as No. 1 in the ratings — she was paired with four male co-anchors.

In her final sign-off, Burke said the buyout was “very generous.”  She said she was not singled out personally, but was one of several non-management employees with more than 30 years on the job, to get a buyout offer. In addition to Burke and Clark, an engineer and photographer accepted buyouts.

“Buyouts happen all the time in the corporate world and this station is owned by a corporation,” she told viewers. Burke compared her move to opening up a new chapter in her life using an entirely new book. “Change is good —change is healthy,” she added. Burke was unavailable to discuss future plans.

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Clark, who began full-time in 1982, said he was planning to retire within a couple of years, but the offer from Tribune was “too generous” to pass up. He said it was not worth the risk of staying around, as he planned.

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No matter what the weather, Clark delivered all his forecasts from “the back yard,” an outdoor weather set. Except when dangerous lightning was in the area, Clark was outside enduring all conditions:  freezing temperatures to 100 degree-plus days, not to mention snow, rain or fair skies.

He recalled past years when he used to arrive for school visits in WNEP’s former helicopter and “step out like a rock star” to the cheers of assembled students.

“I would like to travel,” he said about his future plans. He is looking forward to more frequent visits with his daughter, a meteorologist who lives in Minnesota, and his mother, who lives in the Philadelphia area. He has no plans for work, saying he will “lay low” for a while. His wife, Noreen, a meteorologist too, will continue to work part time at WNEP.

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News Director Carl Abraham said, both have” played major roles in the longtime news and rating success of Newswatch 16.” He said a national search is underway “for a talented meteorologist” to replace Clark.

 Sharla McBride, 7, 10 and 11 p.m. co-anchor, replaced Burke at 6 p.m. alongside Scott Schaffer.

“For more than 30 years, I’ve worked here at WNEP-TV with Tom Clark and Marisa Burke,” said Abraham. “I’ve always found Tom to be the steady influence in our weather office. He is truly a people person. He enjoys giving tours of the station, and loves talking to people and groups about forecasting weather. Besides being a top news anchor, Marisa is also an outstanding news producer and gifted news writer. Both Tom and Marisa have always been passionate about their jobs, and always in their minds — the viewers came first. “

Advertising agency owner, Phil Condron of Scranton, said losing the two long-established personalities is a “cause of concern” for station management. Whether their appeal with viewers will be replicated, “remains to be seen.”


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