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Tony Kovaleski on his decision to leave 7News in favor of KNTV in Bay Area

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For a decade, 7News investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski has been one of local TV's most reliable trouble-stirrers. But starting in January, he'll have a new address: KNTV, an NBC owned-and-operated station in the Bay Area.

Kovaleski, who grew up in San Jose, is making the move because of the opportunity, he says. But the offer might not have come if 7News hadn't gone up for sale.

When 7News' longtime owner, McGraw-Hill, put the outlet on the block in June, "a lot of people in our industry knew that everybody might be facing change," he notes. "So I, like many of my colleagues, got some phone calls. And this was one of those calls."

He listened in part because of what he calls KNTV's "really strong commitment to investigative reporting. They called me up and said, 'We want you to lead our team -- and we're going to build a unit with between thirteen and fifteen investigative partners.' It's a major commitment to investigative big-J journalism, and it's a huge challenge. And I'm all about challenge."

In the end, Kovaleski, who worked in Phoenix and Houston prior to landing in Colorado, emphasizes that the specifics of the position, not the shifting landscape at 7News (purchased last month by E.W. Scripps) or the prospect of moving back to San Jose, convinced him to make the jump. But it wasn't easy.

"This is the most exciting opportunity and the most difficult decision of my career all at once," he says. "I've had an absolutely spectacular experience at 7News. Jeff Harris and Byron Grandy" -- the station's news director and general manager, respectively -- "have given me a platform that's been about journalism and the opportunity to create change. And this isn't me, it's we. We've all been a united, synergistic team, and that's allowed us to produce some pretty great stuff" -- not just grabby moments like a golf course takedown of Pinnacol's Ken Ross, but also large-scale pieces like 33 Minutes to 3-4 Right. The news special, focusing on slow emergency response times at Denver International Airport and Denver Health, won a slew of major prizes last year, including the Edward R. Murrow National Headliner Award and the duPont-Columbia Award.

Of course, Kovaleski still has a month-plus left in Denver, and he says, "We've got a couple of stories over the next few weeks that I'm really proud of."

Stay tuned.

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More from our Media archive: "New Channel 7 news director Jeff Harris on coming home."

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