Somebody lands a job in the 150th market, you send a condolence card.
To rookie Matthew Felling, you send congratulations and a tasteful floral arrangement.
With formerly unknown Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin suddenly a hot commodity as John McCain’s running mate, the entire state — including No. 150 market Anchorage — is media catnip.
“I admit the timing is incredible,” says Felling, 35, who debuts Monday as an anchor at CBS affiliate KTVA. (Palin reported sports for crosstown rival KTUU in the late ’80s.)
“It’s like being called up from the minors to Yankee Stadium on day one.”
Felling’s short run as co-editor of cbsnews.com’s “Public Eye” ended in December when CBS killed the blog. He had spent the previous eight years as communications boss for Robert Lichter’s Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington.
While on the hunt, Felling appeared frequently on cable — as a fill-in co-host on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe;” a frequent guest on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and a commentator on various shows. Also, he had a semi-regular gig on NPR.
As a career, TV wasn’t even on Felling’s radar screen. Neither was the 49th state, for that matter. But when the Missouri native saw the Alaska listing, “I was immediately intrigued,” he says.
“It’s a region I always felt curious about. It’s so different from the Beltway scene — a refreshing, down-to-earth existence with an absolute lack of pretense. The job seemed like a way to apply all my skills, from both hemispheres of my brain.”
Felling had never been to Alaska until he auditioned in July. Like many in “the lower 48,” his image of the state was “one stoplight, igloos and caribou.” Instead, he found in Anchorage “a serious, solid city with a vibrant culture.”
A political junkie with a graduate degree in cyberjournalism from Georgetown, Felling can’t wait to dig into what he calls “a singularly important story and the biggest story in Alaska in at least a generation.”
Palin’s acceptance speech last week “lit a fire in the heart of the Republican party,” he says.
During the campaign, ironically, Felling may be sent the 4,344 miles back to Washington to cover Palin, he says. His station is also staffing the Washington corruption trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens; jury selection is set to begin Sept. 22.
After months of uncertainty, it’s all good for Felling.
“Sometimes the pendulum swings your way,” he says. “The fates are balancing things out for Matthew Tate Felling.”