Film and TV

Adele Arakawa Retiring From 9News: How Fake Was Story Predicting Her Exit?

Yesterday, longtime 9News anchor Adele Arakawa revealed that she'll be retiring from the station in June 2017 — an announcement prompted by what she decried as a "fake news" story about her impending departure.

But the report about Arakawa, published yesterday morning on the media-gossip site FTVLive, doesn't fit the definition of "fake news" — totally fictional tales that are often driven by agendas, political or otherwise. A textbook example of the phenomenon is a piece falsely asserting that a Washington pizza restaurant was a front for a Hillary Clinton-related child sex ring. The absurd claim reportedly inspired a man who believed it to fire shots in the eatery.

As such, Arakawa's jeremiad against being victimized by "Fake News" is pretty fake in and of itself.

How to better describe the FTVLive item, headlined "Tegna to Push Out Longtime Denver Anchor?" Simply inaccurate, according to Arakawa, who insists that she is choosing to retire rather than being forced to take a buyout. But her impending move takes place against the backdrop of prior exits involving numerous veteran staffers at the station — including morning anchor Kyle Dyerentertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery, sportscaster Susie Wargin, evening anchor Mark Koebrich and self-described business boy Gregg Moss. And most media observers feel the current economic realities of television news are a major factor in leave-takings like these, which have become common throughout the industry.

Like newspapers and other traditional media operations, local TV stations have infinitely tighter budgets than they did ten and twenty years ago, making the huge contracts given to personalities such as Arakawa liabilities. Outlays like these have inspired broadcasters across the country to bid big stars farewell and replace them with folks who command more manageable salaries.

A case in point is Mike Landess, who's anchored for several Denver TV stations, including 9News. In 2014, Landess announced his retirement from 7News — but in an interview this past July, he admitted that he had already lined up another job, at KYTX in his home town of Tyler, Texas, when he signed the so-called retirement package. He's currently helming a 4 p.m. weekday newscast on CW2.

Arakawa is in a position similar to the one in which Landess was two years ago. She's had remarkable ratings success at 9News over the years, but she's undoubtedly making a huge pile of moolah, especially by today's standards. That's likely why the folks at FTVLive believed "sources" who maintained that "Tegna-owned KUSA in Denver is pushing longtime Anchor and FTVLive favorite Adele Arakawa out the door.... Word is very hush-hush, but it appears that the Denver station is 'offering' Arakawa a buyout and she is very much being urged to take it."

In her video response to the FTVLive offering, Arakawa confirms, "I am leaving." But she emphasizes that she's doing so "of my own volition, and contrary to the fake news, I'm not being given a golden parachute. I wish. That's a joke."

She adds: "This was a decision made a year ago. 9News approached me eighteen months before my current contract expired to ask me to stay for another term. Twelve months ago, I told them this was it, this is my final contract, and that I wanted to retire in June 2017. Close friends and colleagues have known this for months." (Arakawa doesn't mention whether the new contract offered a smaller paycheck than those in previous years.)

The FTVLive post pushed up her timeline, she says: "I had wanted to wait at least a few more weeks to announce my retirement — one, because I believe Cheryl Preheim, whose last day at 9News is December 16 [Preheim is taking a job at a station in Atlanta], deserves the attention and accolades for her many years here and her contributions to this community; and two, I'm not leaving for another six months!"

When she goes, a significant era in Denver television history will come to a close. Arakawa has become a Denver TV icon by keeping 9News at the top of the local-news heap after the retirement of Ed Sardella, whose teaming with Landess during the 1970s first established the outlet's supremacy.

Moreover, her harsh words about "fake news" — she says it's "ugly, insidious and undermines the very values I've worked hard to exemplify for my forty-plus years in this business" — are undoubtedly heartfelt.

Too bad her attack wasn't more accurate. Here's a video of her statement as shared on Facebook.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts