Gray Television, the parent company of KTUU, has hired at least 11 people from KTVA, according to several sources. Gray recently acquired KTVA’s assets from GCI. The consolidation means there is now one company who owns both the NBC and CBS affiliates in Anchorage. There is also the FOX/ABC affiliate, Your Alaska Link, owned by Coastal Television. Here is a list of the 11 people who will be going to KTUU:
- Lauren Maxwell, reporter
- Gina Romero, assistant news director
- Heather Hintze, multimedia journalist
- Will Mader, photographer
- Daniella Rivera, reporter
- Nick Swann, chief photographer
- Rachel McPherron, photographer
- Jennifer Summers, producer
- Liz Roman, digital manager
- Malia Barto, digital producer
- Melissa Frey, weather
Notable names not on the list include anchors Joe Vigil, Megan Mazurek, Liz Raines, and John Thompson. Other reporters, photographers, and producers were either not offered jobs or declined to accept Gray’s offer. Sources confirm additional sales and engineering people were also hired by Gray. It’s not clear what it will look like, but according to sources, the new employees will operate out of the KTUU newsroom but will be broadcasting on KYES, which ic CBS 5. The first newcast will be on Monday August 31.
I reached out to Scott Jensen, the former Director of Photography at KTUU and former News Content Manager at KTVA, to get his take on this:
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We’ve seen this coming for years. Maybe not specifically with KTVA – but in general. The downsizing of television news operations across the country is happening, just like newspapers did starting about 20 years ago. It’s the same story – the addition and diversification of companies that provide news and information means the larger organizations just can’t survive the competition. The mainstream news organizations like KTVA, strive to appeal to a broad audience. Their content has traditionally needed to be of general interest because they have to attract many eyeballs in order to earn the ad revenue to support their large staffs. In my opinion, pursuing general interest stories is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing.
On the flip side, look at what the Anchorage Daily News is doing with ProPublica – meaningful investigative journalism and unique specific stories. Recent Pulitzer-winner Kyle Hopkins is quite possibly the most innovative and forward-thinking journalist in Alaska. Look at his stories from when he was with KTUU five years ago – experiential and process journalism. His work was engaging and showed behind-the-scenes moments of developing stories as they happened. Audiences want to see how the sausage is made. And they want important stories told and exposed. Consider this week’s news – ADN broke the story about the Alaska attorney’s general absolutely inappropriate harassing behavior which quickly led to his resignation. That was all ProPublica and Hopkins.
Much smaller blogs and content aggregators, often with an agenda, have the advantage because their overhead is a fraction of a KTUU or ADN. They have built-in audiences invested because of the distinct views expressed and by their slanted editorial decisions. The obvious example is Must Read Alaska. That publisher serves up content to the conservative masses giving them what they want to hear. It’s the classic Fox News play. Find an audience and cater to it.
All that said, unbiased, legitimate medium- to small-sized journalism companies, like KTVA, that are in the pursuit of truth and improving their communities can easily be left behind. There were many talented journalists and media producers at KTVA who were not picked up by Gray. And that’s really sad because a lot of awesome people have left or are leaving the state – which degrades our community. There’s nothing left for them here. I get it, but I hate it. Some great friends of mine are gone or will soon be. If Alaskans cared more for the work they produced, they’d still be here making our community stronger.
But now that KTUU has won their television news war that’s been raging in Anchorage over most of the last decade, just like the Anchorage Daily News won their wars against the Anchorage Times in the early 90’s, and more recently against the Alaska Dispatch News. I hope these two legendary Alaska newsrooms are able to kindle some sort of friendly competitive nature. That would help produce many more great stories like the ones Hopkins has been firing off lately – good for journalism and good for our state.