RECKER, RIVERA PART WAYS WITH KVOA ON VERY DIFFERENT TERMS
Ryan Recker spent more than six years as the sports director at KVOA Channel 4 and loved his experience at the local NBC affiliate.
Former morning news anchor Lorraine Rivera left KVOA last month on the same day Recker did. It marked the end of a nine-year stint soured by how her experience concluded.
Recker, a Pittsburgh native, returns home, where he will anchor the morning sports segment for WTAE TV.
"It's more about the opportunity than going home," Recker said. "It's a market with three professional sports teams. These are teams I follow. I probably tweet about these teams as much as I do about Arizona. It's a perfect storm and perfect timing. It's a tremendous opportunity."
Recker's responsibilities are different than those of the prime-time sports anchor. He's in a more personable role, and more a part of the news team dynamic.
"They want my personality to show," Recker said. "It's a unique opportunity because I'll have a chance to cover sports, but work Monday through Friday and not have to work a night or weekend. There will be events and games I'll want to cover, but it's an opportunity for a new challenge. It's a change in lifestyle. I'll be waking up at 2 o'clock in the morning."
Recker didn't know exactly what to expect when he started at KVOA. But he soon became pleased with how things were going, and it took a unique situation for him to leave the desert city he'll remember fondly.
"I came here not knowing one person, which was a little daunting at first, but I was fortunate to have countless amounts of people welcome me. So many people were so darned good to me over the years. It's staggering; a plethora of people who were really good and really genuine to me," Recker said. "I followed Dan Ryan, who was there for 20-some years, and I'm thankful people gave me a chance and allowed me the opportunity to be myself. KVOA granted me the opportunity to do my own thing and to be myself. I had autonomy. If I wanted to cover something a certain way, they let me do it. They trusted me, and to me that's special. I will be forever grateful from a professional sense."
KVOA management was appreciative of Recker as well, throwing a nice going-away party for him.
The management fanfare surrounding Rivera's departure was far more subdued.
A native of Douglas who says she dreamed of working at KVOA, Rivera interned there while attending the UA. She then accepted a job in Yuma but jumped at the chance to return to KVOA when the opportunity presented itself.
"I went from intern to anchor, but there was no more room for growth for me. I was on a downward slope," said Rivera, who was demoted from morning anchor to a reporter position.
Her contract negotiation was an exercise in frustration. Rivera says KVOA offered her significantly less than her previous deal, and when she countered with a request to be provided a photographer for field shoots, she was denied.
It was the last straw.
"There's a double standard," Rivera said. "Rebecca Taylor gets a photographer; so does the new investigative reporter (Matthew Schwartz). I asked for one and was told no. I think that's disheartening to know some people are given special privileges and others not. I just know that when I talked about getting a photographer, (news director Cathie Batbie-Loucks) got very defensive and said 'I'm not talking about anybody else's contract with you.' I'm not asking about anyone else's contract. I'm just asking for the same courtesy. Would I have stayed if they had offered a photographer? I can't speak on theoreticals."
Current and former employees have leveled the double standard charge against KVOA for some time. Much of the discontent centers around the station's decision to implement a multimedia journalist, or MMJ, policy. Under the policy, which was supposed to initially include all news personnel in the field—with no exceptions—reporters were required to interview, write and edit, and operate the camera equipment. In the past, reporters were provided with camera operators. But the implementation of the policy has been sporadic. It's still required for most news personnel, but not all. To say that the inconsistency and preferential treatment has been an area of consternation in the building is an understatement.
"I miss journalism because I love what I did, but KVOA does journalism differently now," Rivera said. "Reporters are out on the field knocking on doors by themselves. They shoot, they write, they edit, they do it all themselves."
Rivera said it's hard to concentrate on gathering facts and telling an accurate story when you have to worry about whether the camera is in focus.
"I thought I'd be in this business forever, but the business is changing."
Rivera is now focused on spending more time with her family, including her daughter, who turns a year old next month.
"I leave here with fond memories of volunteering in classrooms, speaking at various organizations throughout Southern Arizona and witnessing profound and amazing stories," Rivera said on Facebook. "I thank you all for your friendship and support over the years."