Anchorwoman Alycia Lane's future with KYW (CBS3) is uncertain after her arrest early Sunday on charges of slugging a plainclothes New York City police officer.
The station announced that Lane, 35, would begin a planned two-week, end-of-year vacation a week early, effective yesterday. Her name and image were stripped from station promos, and her work on the station's holiday special, airing tonight, was edited out.
Observers say her return to her $700,000-a-year anchor job hinges not only on her legal case - a felony charge of second-degree assault that could take months to resolve - but the court of public opinion.
CBS, the station's parent company, is deliberating how to handle the public relations fallout.
Not only is Lane accused of striking a police officer, she is alleged to have screamed obscenities at the officer and called her a "dyke."
In a statement from CBS3 - which reported yesterday on her arrest - Lane denies that she made any comment or that she struck the officer.
"Behavior clauses" in the contracts of many on-air personalities hold them to conduct that does not embarrass their station. It's not clear if Lane's contract contains such a stipulation, or if the arrest would constitute grounds for dismissal. Her agent, Gregg Willinger, did not return a call for comment.
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said that such a slur against lesbians would be doubly painful because CBS3 has been among the city's most supportive broadcasters on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. "If she did say that, at the very least there should be sensitivity training," Segal said. "I would wonder how you could trust a news anchor who said anything like that. There's a big difference between being a celebrity and a journalist."
Stacey Sobel, executive director of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, called upon Lane to apologize.
An official with the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police did not return a call for comment.
A friend said Lane was staying with a friend on Washington Square yesterday after her return from New York.
Lane did not return calls and e-mails for comment. Neither did Q102 radio personality Chris Booker, her current boyfriend.
Yesterday, more pieces of the story came to light. Lane and Booker were in a New York taxicab early Sunday with another couple - identified by a source as a radio executive that Booker knows through radio DJ Howard Stern, and his wife.
Their cab was behind a car that was repeatedly stopping and starting, and the cabbie was honking furiously. When both vehicles stopped for a light, one of the men in the cab - believed to be the executive - got out to confront the people in the car.
Two men and a woman emerged from the car, the source said, and identified themselves as police officers. The police ordered the man, described in the police report as intoxicated, to return to the cab. Lane, holding her iPhone, then got out of the cab.
According to the report, Lane placed the phone's camera against a male officer's face. A female officer grabbed Lane's arm in an attempt to move the phone, the report said. Lane said, according to the police report: "I don't give a f- who you are I am a reporter you f-ing dyke." The report said Lane was seen striking the female officer in the face. The female officer, whom a source identified as Bernadette Enchautegui, 33, suffered two cuts, the report said.
A witness said Lane, screaming, was thrown to the ground and apprehended. Charged with second-degree assault, Lane pleaded not guilty at her arraignment.
She was the only person charged in the incident.
The radio executive did not return a call or e-mail for comment.
On her ride back to Philadelphia Sunday night, Lane made a flurry of phone calls. One was to Gov. Rendell, "to tell her side of the story," said Chuck Ardo, his spokesman. Ardo said Lane did not ask Rendell, a former Philadelphia district attorney and a native New Yorker, to intervene.
Arrests of TV anchors - for offenses ranging from driving under the influence to retail theft - are not new. In most cases, the offenders take a few days off and quietly settle the case. A Boston anchor resigned in 1999 after being accused of assaulting his girlfriend.
Tom Petner, director of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab and editor of the TV trade Web site ShopTalk, wondered about her future. "I honestly think they'd be hard-pressed to put her back on," said Petner, a former news director in New York and Pittsburgh.
Chris Harper, a Temple University journalism professor and former producer and correspondent for Newsweek and ABC, said she could return to the air, but he questioned her judgment. "Journalists," he said, "should know better than to confront police outside their working hours."
In her four years at KYW, ratings for her newcasts with Larry Mendte have climbed. All the while, Lane has straddled the tenuous line between celeb and journalist. She appeared twice on the Dr. Phil show to address her failed marriages, a decision viewed even by her friends as misguided. She gained unwanted national attention earlier this year after the wife of TV sportscaster Rich Eisen confronted her for sending saucy vacation photos to him. After she denied that she was dating a New York anchorman, the Post staked out her Washington Square apartment to photograph them.
Referring to her increasingly lurid off-camera image, Petner said, "the personality is in danger of overtaking the content."
Newsies in the News
Philadelphia media personalities sometimes make the news themselves.
Howard Eskin. The hard-charging WIP/NBC10 sports reporter has often been in hot water; it really boiled over after his friendship with a woman who was later murdered by her husband.
Cecily Tynan. The Action News weathercaster left a nasty voice mail on the answering machine of her fiance's ex-wife - who released the tape.
Tom Burlington. The Fox29 anchor was taken off the air indefinitely after reportedly using the N-word during a news meeting.
Mike Missanelli. WIP fired the host after he roughed up a producer.
Sharon Reed. NBC10 dismissed the reporter/anchor after she reportedly threatened a colleague by e-mail.
Monica Malpass. The 6ABC anchor made headlines during her long-running divorce case.
John Bolaris. The weathercaster, who starts next month on Fox29, was a one-man gossip bonfire while at NBC10: reports of nightclub dustups, a celebrated romance with singer Lauren Hart, and a child with former NBC10 anchor Tiffany McElroy.
Jessica Savitch. The Kennett Square native became a star at KYW-TV before being hired away by NBC. Rumors of drug use peaked after a slurred on-air appearance in 1983. Less than a month later Savitch drowned when the car she was riding in plunged into a canal in Bucks County.