Longtime KTUU morning anchor Sheila Balistreri said goodbye to viewers of the Anchorage, AK, NBC affiliate Friday.
As part of her send off, she got a goodbye from Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie from NBC’s Today Show and, according to the Alaska Dispatch, red rose petals in the hallway leading to the studio.
Balistreri has been with “Morning Edition” since day one, working the grueling 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. overnight shift required to produce the show while the rest of Alaska slept. For years, she worked through the night to produce the show, sometimes even at personal expense. She said her family would often note that it seemed like she was in a fog when she got home, a result of giving all her energy to making sure the job was done right, she said
Maria Downey, assistant news director and longtime evening news anchor, said Balistreri was a perfect fit to start the morning newscast, with her strong news experience and commitment to Alaska. Downey noted Balistreri was always willing to get up early and couldn’t remember a time she called in sick. Even with the grueling shift, and other anchors coming and going over the years, Balistreri remained a fixture.
“She’s remarkable,” Downey said. “You never hear her complain. That’s a shift that she’s made her own and adjusted life her life around it. I don’t know how she does it.”
“Morning Edition” dominates the ratings, with the only other Alaska morning show, the newly debuted KTVA’s “Daybreak,” well behind it. According to Nielsen ratings provided by KTUU, “Morning Edition”’s 6-7 a.m. hour even rates higher than the national NBC “Today Show” that follows it.
Colleagues credit much of that dominance to Balistreri. Downey called Balistreri’s voice “one of the best, if not the best” in the industry. That authoritative yet compassionate tone, coupled with her genuine dedication to viewers, made her a perfect fit to start viewers’ mornings.
“You can tell that she really cares,” Downey said.