KTXL News Director Brandon Mercer Resigns

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Former KTXL News Director Brandon Mercer rides a bike in the station's parking lot. (KTXL photo)

Former KTXL News Director Brandon Mercer on a bike. (KTXL photo)

After a five year stint, Brandon Mercer has resigned as the news director of Sacramento’s FOX affiliate KTXL-TV.

Multiple sources told The Desk that Mercer’s resignation was accepted Wednesday morning by the station’s general manager Jerry del Core, who informed the rest of the station at an impromptu staff meeting.

Mercer’s resignation was first reported by the website FTV Live. No reason was given for Mercer’s departure.

Mercer was hired in May 2008 away from competitor KOVR-TV, where he was the executive producer for the Sacramento market’s number one local morning news program “Good Day Sacramento.” At KTXL, Mercer expanded the station’s news footprint from one hour of news daily to 7.5 hours of news.

Among other newscasts, Mercer launched a 4.5 hour morning news program to compete against “Good Day” in late 2008. For the show, Mercer hired local radio veteran Paul Robins to anchor and hired dozens of reporters and producers.

Mercer also launched the Sacramento market’s first newscast to be broadcast entirely in high definition (at the time, rivals KCRA and KOVR both promoted high definition newscasts, but both used standard definition cameras and feeds for remote broadcasts). Mercer also oversaw the stations’ social media efforts, with KTXL laying claim to the first news presence in the Sacramento market on Facebook and Twitter.

Mercer’s efforts, when executed, were largely seen as gimmicky and, despite expanding its headcount, the station was seen as a revolving door for talent both on-air and behind the camera.

In 2008, Mercer fired reporter Louisa Hodge just weeks after she won the station their only Emmy Award for the year. For at least four more years, the station lost several veteran producers and on-air talent (three broadcast veterans — reporter Lonnie Wong, meteorologist Kristina Werner and sports director Jim Crandell — remain).

Mercer was also at the helm of the newsroom when KTXL was thrust into the international spotlight after the station’s former web producer (that’d be me) was indicted as an alleged co-conspirator in a purported attack against the website of the Los Angeles Times (both KTXL and the Los Angeles Times are owned by the Tribune Company). A court document shows that in late 2010, Mercer contacted agents with the FBI after he allegedly received “unsolicited emails from an unknown person” who claimed to have compromised an “e-mail contact list.”

That contact launched a criminal investigation which would lead to (largely unrelated) charges against me two years later (I have since denied the allegations that were made and entered a plea of not guilty at a court hearing in April).

Mercer’s biography was still available on KTXL’s website as of Thursday afternoon. Mercer wrote that his wife called the station “the other woman,” adding that he often spent “18 hours a day at work.”

All that time at the station made a marginal dent in KTXL’s product and ratings. Though the station expanded its news broadcast, ratings only slightly improved. In the latest quarter, KCRA and KOVR bested KTXL in the morning, evening and late night. KOVR was often “well-ahead” of KTXL in the ratings.

According to sources, Del Core told newsroom employees that Mercer’s efforts at KTXL were appreciated and that the station would immediately begin searching for his replacement.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated four local news veterans remained at KTXL. Teri Cox left the station prior to Mercer’s resignation.

FTV Live: News director Brandon Mercer out at KTXL