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Mike Landess, leaving Channel 2 at the end of November, reflects on 40 years of Colorado news — The Know


Mike Landess stands in the Papal Gardens outdoors the Vatican in 1993 previous to World Youth Day in Denver, which included a Colorado go to from Pope John Paul II. (Offered by Mike Landess)

Denver TV news anchor Mike Landess, who marked a half-century in the enterprise in 2014, despatched a letter to his KWGN-Channel 2 co-workers final week telling them he was leaving his job at the end of November sweeps.

“The original commitment was for a couple of years,” he wrote, “and what a couple of years it has been.”

Whereas the notice ended on the promise that “new adventures await,” 72-year-old Landess nonetheless sees the future as a query mark.

“My wife is tired of having dinner alone, and I’m tired of eating lunch and dinner at my desk,” he advised The Denver Publish this week. “So we’re looking at what that next chapter might be. We have kids and grandkids all over the place in Texas and Colorado. We could stay here and we could go. I’m open to anything, frankly.”

Landess, who has coated the whole lot from 9/11 and the Olympics to Pope John Paul II’s 1993 go to to Denver, additionally described his departure from KWGN — which operates alongside Fox’s KDVR-Channel 31 — as bittersweet.

Mike Landess shakes the hand of Pope John Paul II throughout the Pope’s go to to Denver in 1993 for World Youth Day. (Offered by Mike Landess)

That’s due partially to the basic tumult of the TV-news business, which has seen local-news scores plummet throughout the board in current years. However Landess had hoped that bumpiness wouldn’t prolong to his job at KWGN.

“There were elements of the purchase by Sinclair Broadcasting that I had not foreseen, and I guess I assumed that this station was very powerful as a duopoly in (this market),” Landess stated of the dual-ownership of KDVR and its sister-station, KWGN — the latter of which Landess was introduced on to revitalize in 2016 with a serious programming shakeup.

“It’s very complex, because sometimes I anchor for Fox31 or do various pieces for them. But at one point Sinclair was talking about buying the whole thing and shutting down (Channel 2’s) news side because it was redundant,” he stated. “I’m generally having fun doing this, but it’s becoming less fun because of the uncertainty.”

The Sinclair takeover is now shelved in favor of KDVR/KWGN and their belongings returning to 21st Century Fox from present proprietor Tribune Broadcasting. However the Sinclair controversy, together with that firm’s conservative political bent, wasn’t the solely cause Landess determined to go away KWGN.

We requested Landess (born Malcolm Lee Landess III) extra about that, the most memorable tales he’s coated and different topics earlier than the arrival of Friday, Nov. 30 — his ultimate day on-air at KWGN, and probably in Colorado.

Longtime Denver TV-news anchor Mike Landess is leaving KWGN-Channel 2 at the end of November 2018. (Offered by Mike Landess)

Q: You got here out of retirement from KMGH-Channel 7 a pair years again to work for Channel 2. Are you getting out of TV after this?

A: No, simply at Channel 2. I don’t know if it’s going to be anchoring or reporting or what is perhaps subsequent. At this level, what I really like about TV news is the collaborative half of it: working collectively to flesh out a narrative, to make it compelling and interesting. It’s truly induced me to make a deep dive into social media. It’s difficult making an attempt to hold a message throughout and do it in an interactive method. That’s actually what I acquired into this for — something that received my juices flowing.

Q: Is there something to the timing of this?

A: The easy story is that I did a two-year contract (at KWGN) and that two-year deal ended on July 6. The Sinclair factor and the questions raised raised by a purchase order… none of that was in the works once I got here right here. So when the entire Sinclair deal began falling aside I stated, “Let’s do another six months and see where we go from there.” And that six months ends in December, though my final day on the air is in November.

Q: You’ve been on TV in Denver for the higher half of 40 years…

A: Since September 1977, once I joined Channel 9.

Q: What got here earlier than that?

A: I started broadcasting in Texas in the 1960s whereas I used to be nonetheless in highschool. My first major-market TV station was WFAA in Dallas, and I’ve been very lucky to work for a quantity of legacy stations over the years. After which I used to be working for NBC in Cleveland for 3 years proper earlier than I got here to Denver.

Q: What introduced you to Colorado?

A: This man referred to as me up and stated, “I’ve got a noon show that’s available in Atlanta. Would you be interested?” And I stated, “No, but thank you.” Then he referred to as me again about three weeks later and stated, “There’s a main anchor position available in Denver. Are you interested in that?” He stated it was the top-rated station with a 40 share at 10 o’clock, which sounded unimaginable (a share is the proportion of native TVs turned on at the time). “Nobody has a 40 share!” So I got here out, we talked after which actually wrote out the contract on a kitchen desk in Evergreen one night time. I figured a pair years at a 40-share definitely couldn’t harm my profession. And I ended up staying for 16 years.

Q: How has broadcast journalism modified in your time?

A: Again then (in the late 1970s) the pie chart of what issues seemed like was this tiny little wedge of “cable, VCR and other.” The whole lot else was native broadcast. Now it’s utterly flipped and native broadcast is the tiny wedge. In fact, the first TV station I labored for used to shoot issues like a Okay-Mart opening, nine-car wreck or a flowing hearth hydrant — and in the event that they have been making an attempt to economize on black-and-white movie, they’d shoot a Polaroid image of it and put it on a card. It was an image on TV. That was “TV news.”

Q: What’s most uncommon about your profession?

A: Once I went to Atlanta. I all the time inform school youngsters, “I’m the only anchor you’ll ever meet in life who has been transferred.” That’s as a result of (anchors) get fired, pushed to the curb, or assigned the in a single day shift swabbing bogs and washing the news van. However they don’t get transferred, besides me. By 1981, we had constructed that 40 share (at Channel 9) right into a 52 share on this market. We have been purchased by Gannett, and the Gannettoids — as we referred to as them — would fly out to go snowboarding in Vail or Aspen or no matter. Regardless of our 52 share, they’d flip on the TV and see 4 white guys in fits and ties and say, “What’s this all about? Where’s the diversity?”

So in 1993 the good storm happened. The anchor at Atlanta’s Gannett-owned NBC station had the probability to go to a different legacy station, and there have been already lots of Denver individuals in Atlanta making an attempt to get that station going once more. They got here to me and stated, “How’d you like to go to Atlanta?” And that’s when Adele Arakawa got here in from Chicago, so it was the good transition. They received their variety and I received an opportunity to go to a market that was a lot, a lot bigger at the time.

Q: What are the largest tales you’ve coated?

A: That night time when bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta (in 1996). We have been leaving the park going to our pickup level and I had three photographers with me, however all of them had their gear in the park, and no one was capturing something. We hitchhiked again to our station whereas everybody else was making an attempt to get again to the main broadcast middle (at the Olympics). I simply sat on this little spot and was on with Tom Brokaw on NBC nationwide news for about 9 ½ hours. I used to be their solely supply in the area.

I used to be there for about six years, after which went to WTTG (a Fox affiliate) in Washington, D.C. on the heels of the “hanging chads” and the 2000 presidential election, which went proper into 9/11. That was an area story for us as a result of of the Pentagon. The CBS, NBC and ABC stations (in Washington) have been all beholden to their networks, whereas our station was native for a lot of the day. There have been some 18-hour days for us in there.

And right here’s one thing loopy: I purchased a Volvo station wagon from a man down the road from me on Wisconsin Avenue. He calls me up one afternoon and says, “I have something you’ve got to see.” I went to test it out and it was a bit of American Airways Flight 77 (the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon) caught in his windshield. He was on the freeway, going proper by the Pentagon, when all the things blew to items.

Q: That’s insane. What about Colorado tales?

A: Coming to Colorado… my goodness. I obtained again in 2002 and instantly there was the Hayman Hearth. I used to be truly field-anchoring from a helicopter for a pair nights. I’m not loopy about heights anyway, however the helicopter’s entrance bubble swings beneath towards the entrance and the edge of the bubble is an inch from the tip of my shoe. I’m wanting down 15,000 ft straight into hell.

Q: Do these conditions ever make you assume twice about your job?

A: I’ve had quite a bit of enjoyable. You in all probability can hear in my voice: I nonetheless love this. One of my family members accused me of being an adrenaline junkie. “Why don’t you just admit it? You want to go chase fire engines.”

Q: Why have you ever stayed in Colorado for therefore lengthy?

A: It’s been just a little over 30 years right here altogether, however it’s a mixture of issues: household, the draw of the state, the individuals. Somebody as soon as wrote me a letter and requested me, “Are you ever going to leave Colorado?” And I wrote them again and stated, “Does anyone ever really leave Colorado?”

Q: Any regrets?

A: There’s an element of me that needs (KWGN-Channel 2) had labored out to be a special type of factor, perhaps greater than it was. However I had enjoyable right here. We’ve executed some nice tales. It’s what it’s.

Q: What sort of second is the U.S. news media at proper now?

A: Definitely the quantity has been turned up on quite a bit of rhetoric, with journalists being “the enemy” and so forth. I attempt to interact individuals on social media, however every time I publish something even barely political — typically so simple as one thing Trump stated — it will get ugly. I truly ended up pulling a Fb publish immediately as a result of it acquired so ugly. I don’t publish issues to take a place, I simply need to get individuals speaking. There are some of us who like getting down there and slugging it out, however I’ve little interest in that. Social media is considerably of a slippery slope. The primary parts of news — who, what, when, the place, why — are nonetheless true. (The news media) simply has rather a lot of work to do to maintain its home clear, and to (differentiate) itself from these talking-head entertainers who fake to be journalists.

Q: What’s distinctive about Denver?

A: There’s a can-do angle right here. All we’ve to do is give individuals the alternative to assist or current a necessity, they usually reply. There’s a lot on this life that’s value celebrating, and it’s value remembering that all of us take care of one another. We’ve to.

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