Controversial News Director Quits Kstw Mid-Sweeps

KSTW news director Mark Olinger, who cut six reporters from the television station's staff within six months of his arrival two years ago, is out - in the middle of the important November ratings "sweeps" period.

Olinger left the station because he "wants to pursue other interests," Channel 11 spokeswoman Julie Furlong said yesterday. Olinger resigned Wednesday, effective immediately. He could not be reached for comment.

Station general manager Kevin Hale is looking for a replacement, Furlong said.

"We're going to conduct an immediate search to find the best person available," she said. "We haven't posted the job in any national publication yet but that will happen real soon."

In the meantime, KSTW executive producer Julie Akins, news anchor and managing editor Don Porter and assignment editor Tim Church will share news-director duties.

Olinger was hired in January 1991 to revitalize KSTW's 10 p.m. newscast.

His management style quickly drew attention. Some station veterans were laid off or demoted while on vacation. He fired anchors Wendy Mann and Bill Oltman, and reporters Diane Robinson, Jerry Kemp and Heidi Chang.

Four of them sued Olinger, KSTW and parent Gaylord Broadcasting after Olinger criticized their professional abilities in front of station staff and to other media. Chang and Oltman settled their cases, filed in Pierce County Superior Court. The lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court by Robinson and Kemp are scheduled for trial in June.

Furlong said the defamation lawsuits had nothing to do with Olinger's decision to resign.