When Adele Arakawa started in broadcasting almost 40 years ago, being a woman in a newsroom was revolutionary. These days, that's not unusual, but Arakawa's 24-year stint as the main anchor at the dominant station in one of the nation's top 20 TV markets is.
Arakawa's retiring from 9News next week. She's covered stories ranging from the Oklahoma City bombings to mass shootings at Columbine High School and an Aurora movie theater. And she's watched the TV news industry change, and ratings fall, in the digital age.
Adele Arakawa spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.
On the 1970s, when women broadcasters were a "novelty."
“I was actually let go from one position and coincidentally it was the Monday following a weekend where the general manager had said ‘oh, we’re doing a little weekend getaway, would you like to come?’ I said, ‘no, I’d rather not’ … I do believe he was making an advance.
"You very quickly learn that you have to be very cognizant of your gender and you did back then -- aboveboard professional -- and you always felt like to be able to succeed you had to be as good as or better than your male peers. And the male peers were without exception very accepting. They were wonderful mentors when I was very, very young.”
On her relationship with the parents of a Columbine shooting victim.
"One of the students who was killed was Kyle Velasquez. I had the opportunity and the privilege of meeting his parents, Al and Phyllis Velasquez, and in the months that followed they taught me so much, and even in the years that followed. After Kyle’s death, the family was faced with seemingly hardship after hardship -- health issues -- and I kept in touch with them through the years; they always would tell me ‘we are so blessed’ and you kind of stop a minute and you think ‘how can you say that you have been blessed' and they were able to find the good things that had happened to them in life, and truly believe that they are blessed.’’
On what she likes least about TV news
"There’s not just one thing: There’s a lot of hyperbole, there’s a lot of ‘look at this,’ there’s a lot of sensationalism in it … I’m old school that you present the facts, you let people digest those facts and if they want to form an opinion based on those facts, then they are more than entitled to do that. It is not my job to opine."
In an age of declining viewership, is TV news on its way out?
"I do believe that there is a need for local news, and local news in some form will survive. I think it will be assimilated in different ways, digested in different ways.
"I do think people need to be smart enough, and most of them are, to discern what is a trusted news source. People don’t always vet what they consume, and there are so many different platforms from which to consume that people are learning to trust certain sources as their source of information as being reliable, as being balanced, as being fair, and that’s going to take some time to shake out. I think the pendulum has swung to a degree that it is going to come back. I don’t think it’s ever going to come back center where it was before.”
On her race car:
"It’s a 1995 Porsche 911 C4, so it’s big, it’s cumbersome, it’s slow. It’s a slug, but it’s really fun. It’s a little momentum car -- you kind of have to wind it up. It only has 270 horsepower and weighs 3,000 pounds. That is not a fast car."