Film and TV

Fifteen Denver TV News Stars Who Could Fall Victim to Cost Cuts

9News forecaster Kathy Sabine.
9News forecaster Kathy Sabine. 9News

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click to enlarge CBS4 morning anchor Alan Gionet. - CBS4
CBS4 morning anchor Alan Gionet.
Anchor Alan Gionet

Gionet has had a couple of stints at CBS4, spending much of the 1990s as an investigative reporter prior to his return last decade as an anchor. Like Jelniker, his 7News counterpart, he's gone from evenings to mornings — and that's usually a sign that a broadcaster is more interested in holding onto a steady position than in finding another way to be an outlet's biggest star. This mentality will serve him well the next time his boss starts thinking about lowering his pay.

click to enlarge CBS4 anchor Jim Benemann. - CBS4
CBS4 anchor Jim Benemann.
Anchor Jim Benemann

Benemann steadily rose up the local-market ladder, doing profitable time at 9News before CBS4 hired him in a splashy (and probably pricey) move circa 2003. For the sake of Benemann's long-term employment, let's hope the size of that tag didn't create expectations that are no longer reasonable in today's broadcasting world — because if they did, the next conversation over a contract extension could turn awkward.

click to enlarge CBS4 anchor Karen Leigh. - CBS4
CBS4 anchor Karen Leigh.
Anchor Karen Leigh

Ditto that for Leigh, who was portrayed as a ratings savior when she was first paired with Benemann — and while the two have created stability at the station, the combination has hardly dominated the marketplace. Leigh was hired in 2008, when salaries in the mid-six figures seemed like the price of doing business. They're not anymore, and that makes anyone who scored big during that era potentially vulnerable.

click to enlarge CBS4 anchor Kathy Walsh. - CBS4
CBS4 anchor Kathy Walsh.
Anchor Kathy Walsh

Like 9News's Shaprio, Walsh, who started working at CBS4 way back in 1984, has been present for at least a couple generations of Denver TV news. Moreover, she's got a reputation for being willing to take on any anchoring task, without regard to glamour or a lack thereof. This selflessness suggests she'll able to keep her head down while those of others around her are getting chopped off. But as alluded to above, anyone with three decades at a station could become a target no matter how reasonable they're capable of being.

Fox 31/CW2

click to enlarge Fox31/CW2 forecaster Dave Fraser. - CW2
Fox31/CW2 forecaster Dave Fraser.
Forecaster Dave Fraser

No one can accuse Fraser of playing diva. When Fox31 and CW2 merged, he became the go-to guy for both stations. But because he's been around for more than fifteen years, he probably accounts for a sizable share of the talent budget at the outlets, which were both sold by their previous owner, Tribune, to Sinclair Broadcasting as part of a nationwide transaction valued at a jaw-slackening $3.9 billion earlier this month. When new owners come in, they generally look for ways to save money. And one of the first things they tend to notice is a touch of gray.

Fox31 anchor Jeremy Hubbard. - FOX31/CW2
Fox31 anchor Jeremy Hubbard.
Anchor Jeremy Hubbard

Hubbard was a weekend anchor at Fox31 from 2004 to 2007 before going national, thanks to major roles at ABC News. But the Colorado native chose to come back to Denver in 2011 in order to take over the main anchor gig at Fox31. This decision was probably made easier by a healthy salary offer. The next one almost certainly won't be as robust. How Hubbard handles that is likely to determine the length of his latest tenure at the station.
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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