Denver Political Reporter Dishes on Station Before Leaving for Politico

By Kevin Eck 

Eli Stokols is leaving Denver FOX affiliate KDVR after 10 years.

According to Jason Salzman, who interviewed the Denver reporter for the Huffington Post, Stokols is known as one of the state’s top political reporters.

Salzman sat down with Stokols before he heads off to his new job with Politico and asked if ratings would suffer because of his departure. Stokols also talked about the direction his soon-to-be-former station is taking.

What I’ve done has never been about ratings. I think there needs to be more decisions made in local television that are not made based on ratings but are based on the greater good, the public good. And you get criticized for being a media elitist when you say this, but I will unabashedly say, as journalists, we have a responsibility to determine what the audience and the greater public really need to know about–and make fewer decisions in terms of what we do and don’t cover based on what we think they will like seeing on the news.

Bottom line, you don’t think that ratings will suffer with your departure?

No, I don’t.

What will happen to the station?

I really do think Fox 31 is moving in the right direction. The new news director, Holly Gaunt, is very smart, sees the big picture, sees things clearly within the market and within our newsroom. And [she] will continue that station’s upward trajectory. I think [Fox 31 anchor] Jeremy Hubbard is, I think, the best anchor in the market. There are a lot of talented people there. I think Fox 31 has a decision to make about what kind of footprint they make in terms of political coverage.

What’s it going to take to change viewer habits in Denver? You’ve busted your ass. Your station is very competent, but yet you’ve sat there at the bottom, or close to it. It has got to be frustrating.

I won’t say [9News] hasn’t done a lot to maintain that and earn that. Some of it is journalism. A lot of it is also branding and community involvement. They sponsor everything. They are a juggernaut, and it’s not just because of the news department. But they are less dominant than they were when I first got to the market. And there are opportunities to challenge them. At the CBA awards, it was Fox 31 and 9News that won most of the awards. They do a good job. A lot of stations do a good job, but changing viewer habits is sometimes as simple as finding that right anchor team and that chemistry. Channel 7’s morning show was killing it when they had Ana Cabrera on there. She is a special talent, and there’s a reason CNN said, “We want to take you.” And they did take her. And now their morning show is not the same. And it takes nothing away from other people who are on the morning show.

Something like that could flip it?

I think Jeremy Hubbard is that kind of talent. He’s very good. He’s only been back here in this role for a short time. There’s a real consistency with him.

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