When I was a kid, growing up in Maine, our family had a daily ritual. Dad would be home at 6 in time for the local news. Then we’d watch the national news. Each night we’d have dinner at 7 and discuss what we’d learned. Television news was truly the campfire around which our family gathered. And being able to discuss current events with my parents made me feel like a grownup.
In high school I wasn’t much of an athlete and I decided writing for the student paper would be a good way to get girls. My scheme didn’t work out quite the way I’d planned — I met my sweetheart after bumping into her in the schoolyard — but after writing a series of stories that I thought made a difference on campus I did begin to understand the power of the press and the incredible responsibility reporters have to get the facts right.
My story-telling instincts turned to movie production at Colorado College and New York University Film School. And then I hit a wall: at 22 no one would hire me to direct the next Great American Movie. So after all those years of school the only way I could make money was by teaching skiing, which I did in Aspen. After one drought-plagued winter I still needed a job and just happened to meet the Sheriff of Pitkin County in a local bar. He needed a deputy after firing the one that let Ted Bundy escape from the second floor of the courthouse. I signed on to policing an amazing three years of murders, suicides, and robberies — anything but drug enforcement. The Sheriff didn’t want government entrapping citizens with undercover drug investigations. 60 Minutes came to town to do a story called Walking Tall in Pitkin County… One Man Up Against the Federal Government … and I helped the producer with the piece. After it aired I asked him how I could get into television. It seemed like a perfect combination of skills I’d acquired: writing, visual production and a healthy respect for the dark side of humanity. He told me to go to the smallest market I could find and learn on the job about what it took to tell stories on TV.
Presque Isle, Maine was my first stop, followed by reporting gigs in Oklahoma City and Seattle. I took a local producing job in Atlanta and jumped to ABC News in 1989 for what would turn out to be a nearly 20-year run with the network in Georgia, New York and Los Angeles. Early in 2013 I received a call from a headhunter wondering if I’d be interested in a news director’s job in Anchorage. Before he could continue with “Alaska” I said yeah, not so much, I had done a few documentaries there and even had a fishing trip with my father to Willow once… but I was comfortable living in Southern California. He convinced me to meet the people who were dreaming of building the first high definition news product in Alaska and the plans they shared with me blew my mind: new technology, compelling stories and a chance to build a news department from scratch.
I took the bait and became a resident of Anchorage in June. Since arriving I began what I thought would be the difficult task of recruiting talent from the Lower 48. For many, I thought, Alaska would be too far away from their families and friends, too cold and dark in the winters and too small a market to challenge their professional skills. To my great surprise, Alaska does indeed sell itself… with stunning scenery, provocative stories and a frontier attitude that makes it a “can do” location for entrepreneurs. There’s an old saying that half the people who move to Alaska do so for opportunity. The other half are escaping arrest warrants in the Lower 48. We will be aggressive in covering them all.