KXAN News Director Quits

Two weeks after proclaiming the KXAN news department was “headed in the right direction,” news director “Wild Bill” Seitzler resigns after 10 months on the job

Two weeks after proclaiming the KXAN news department was “headed in the right direction,” news director Bill Seitzler resigned last week after 10 months on the job.

Nicknamed “Wild Bill” on an industry message board, Seitzler implemented sweeping changes in the newsroom, creating what many describe as a bitterly unhappy workplace. Several on-air staffers and key members of the newsroom were either fired or quit in recent months.

Neither Seitzler nor general manager Eric Lassberg, who took over the station three months ago, returned calls seeking comment.

“When I told the newsroom I was leaving, I asked for their forgiveness because I do regret the timing,” Seitzler told the Austin American-Statesman. “We’ve had a lot of transition and change, but I’m convinced we’re on the right track.”

Seitzler, who previously worked in Tulsa, is expected to stay on through the end of November, which is a key sweeps ratings period. He is reportedly leaving to take a job with a consultant.

In addition to the staff upheaval, Seitzler implemented what many viewed as a more wild-eyed, sensational approach to the news. While all the stations play the fear card, almost every KXAN newscast these day seems to include some reference to news that “every parent needs to see” or a report that “might save your life” – usually involving children. Sample headline from last week: “Kids, Halloween and Sex Offenders.”

The situation in the newsroom seemed to be escalating in recent weeks after longtime on-air stalwarts Jim Bergamo and Dan Robertson were jettisoned and political reporter Rich Parsons quit to take a job with the lieutenant governor’s office. After the Chronicle reported on the changes, several messages were posted on the Chronicle and TV news industry Web sites claiming the situation in the newsroom was much worse than described in the article.

Once regarded as one of Austin’s most stable stations, Seitzler’s abrupt decision to jump ship is the latest sign of turmoil at KXAN. In May, general manager Carlos Fernandez was fired by corporate parent LIN Television, which has seen its stock price plummet in the past two years.

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