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CBS3 cuts sports anchor Lesley Van Arsdall, other staffers, in slimming of its news operation

Van Arsdall joined the Eyewitness News in team in 2003 as a reporter. About 400 employees reportedly were let go by CBS3 parent ViacomCBS this week in what was called a corporate restructuring. In Philadelphia, CBS3 cut about four on air staffers and nine others.

Lesley Van Arsdall was weekend sports anchor at CBS3.
Lesley Van Arsdall was weekend sports anchor at CBS3.Read moreHANDOUT / HANDOUT

Veteran sports anchor Lesley Van Arsdall was one of more than a dozen staffers this week to fall victim to cutbacks within the news operation at CBS3.

Also ousted were Chandler Lutz, the morning traffic anchor; Cleve Bryan, the station’s South Jersey reporter; and Chantee Lans, the general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor considered to be a rising star. Several engineers, writers, freelancers, and producers also lost their jobs at the Philadelphia news outlet, a station staffer said.

“It’s really lean now," said the station staffer, who was not authorized to speak to the media. "And we were already so lean to begin with.”

The layoffs came as part of a nationwide staff reduction this week by the station’s parent company ViacomCBS.

Citing financial pressures from the coronavirus pandemic and an ongoing corporate restructuring, ViacomCBS slashed more than 300 personnel across its news and entertainment divisions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A spokeswoman at CBS3 declined to comment.

CBS merged with Viacom in December to create a new multinational multimedia behemoth then valued at $15.6 billion.

Though TV news viewership has soared as Americans hunger for pandemic news, advertising revenue has shriveled to close to zero because most ad-placing businesses have remained shuttered since mid-March because of COVID-19 .

In a memo obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, CBS News president Susan Zirinsky wrote that with reduced budgets, “we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions.”

"I’m sad to report today that some of our colleagues and good friends will be leaving the company. These decisions are particularly painful for our entire organization, which has performed at the highest level during the COVID-19 pandemic, overcoming so many obstacles. But this restructuring is necessary to ensure CBS News remains strong long into the future,” Zirinsky said.

By Thursday afternoon, the station’s website had scrubbed any evidence that Van Arsdall, Lutz, Bryan, or Lans had ever worked there.

Van Arsdall, 47, spent nearly 20 years at the station and was named the station’s weekend sports editor in 2011. She joined the Eyewitness News in team in 2003 as a general assignment reporter. Previously, she was a reporter and anchor at KYW Newsradio. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Lutz made her CBS3 debut in August 2018 as an early morning traffic reporter after her start at PHL 17, where she had covered news features.

On Thursday, Lutz acknowledged her last day at CBS3 with a post on Instagram. “Yesterday, I finished a chapter in my book,” she wrote. “It was my last day on-air with CBS Philly. I have nothing but gratitude to the station who took on a young journalist and helped shape her and allowed her to grow.”

Bryan began covering South Jersey for the station in 2013 after stints covering breaking news in Norfolk, Va.; Washington, D.C.; and Atlantic City.

Lans, a Temple University graduate who got her start on WRTI-FM, won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award in 2014. Before CBS3, she was general assignment reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston.