Saturday, 2:15 PM
News anchor Randy Price resigns from Channel 7
By Johnny Diaz, Globe Staff
Randy Price, the lead anchor at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and one of New England's most familiar on-air faces, is leaving the station.
Randy Price (WHDH-TV photo)
The mustachioed newscaster who anchored almost every breaking news event for the past 12 years in Boston, told friends and co-workers Friday night that he was leaving after reaching a "mutal agreement" with the station's owner, Ed Ansin, to part ways.
His last newscast was Wednesday night.
Price, who had a contract with WHDH until 2012, said he had a meeting Thursday with Ansin, who owns WHDH and sister station WLVI-TV (Channel 56), about his future at WHDH.
"He's a guy I have been loyal to and dedicated to for a dozen years. When he says to me we need to move in different directions, I respect that,'' said Price, who helped WHDH dominate the 11 p.m. news in ratings in the last decade. In the past year, the station has slipped to third place at 11 in total viewers and key demographics. WBZ-TV Channel 4 has been leading at 11 p.m. in both.
Station officials did not immediately return calls from the Globe.
"I am hardly retiring. I've had a career of having had wonderful experiences. I worked for two really great TV stations in this marketplace. I woke up this morning, thinking it's a rebirth," said Price, 59, the country's first openly gay news anchor, in an interview from his home in Kittery, Maine. "I am happy about the 12 wonderful years that I had there, the people I worked with, the wonderful viewers.
"We've had a long run of being the leading station in the city, one of the most noted stations in the country and winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award,'' added Price.
Price said he will return to WHDH Monday to fill out some paperwork.
His departure and those of other well-known Boston news personalities in the past year such as Jim Boyd from WCVB-TV (Channel 5); Bob Lobel from WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and Tom Ellis on NECN, reflect the changing nature of local TV, news which has relied on the traditional star anchor format. As advertising revenues and ratings decline, station managers are relying more on a team approach and they're opting to hire younger reporters to reduce costs.
Natalie Jacobson, who anchored at WCVB for 35 years before retiring in 2007, said her generation of seasoned news anchors like Price, who were "part of the genesis" in pioneering the local TV news industry, is fading.
"I don't know what the future holds for people like us,'' said Jacobson, who has been vocal in the past about the celebrity-obsessed culture of local news in recent years. "When a station chooses to be more graphic-driven and more celebrity-driven, that can really frustrate that reporter and journalist because we feel we are not doing the job that viewers expect from us. It's a tough hole for everybody. Money is short and news is 24/7. People who run these operations aren't making the money they made before."
WHDH employees were saddened by Price's news and said he helped WHDH establish its news legacy.
One staffer who didn't want to be named, said, "We are devastated. Everyone is really sad."
To bolster ratings, WHDH reassigned afternoon and evening anchor-reporter Kim Khazei to co-anchor with Frances Rivera on 7's 10 p.m. newscast, which is broadcast on Channel 56. Khazei and Rivera are now the only female anchor team in Boston. Khazei filled in Friday evening for Price at 11 p.m.
Of his departure, Price said "Does it hurt? Of course, it does...It's more appropriate for me to say goodbye to everyone and keep it real."
Price, a Louisiana native, came to Boston in 1983 to anchor the morning news at WBZ.
He became a popular on-air personality, but viewers witnessed his personal issues surface. In 1995, police arrested him on a drunken-driving charge, his second. He pleaded no contest and attended court-mandated counseling.
Price then resigned from WBZ and remained off the air for a year as he sat out his contract. He used that down time to refocus on his sobriety and construct the home in Kittery that he now shares with his partner, Mark Steffen, a former chief financial officer for a malpractice company.
In 1996, WHDH hired him as a freelancer and that led to hiring him full time in 1997. He moved into the morning anchor chair and then was promoted to anchor the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
Price was also popular for his work off-camera. He has been an advocate for animal rights and gay issues and has emceed and headlined local events such as the annual Men's Event fund-raiser for Fenway Community Health Center.
He and Steffen married in 2007 on the steps of the State House in Beacon Hill. Price said he plans to spend some of his free time traveling with Steffen as he re-evaluates his future.
"I will soon be into my next chapter," said Price. "It's a little too soon [to say] what that will be. I am confident with the fact that I will have another exciting and stimulating chapter."
Johnny Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org