Retired? Ridiculous. The man merely took a lengthy vacation.
Now local broadcasting legend Bob Stoldal, following up a 36-year tenure at KLAS-TV, Channel 8, is coming out of retirement to take the newsroom reins of rival station KVBC-TV, Channel 3.
“I never really retired, there was just a period when I couldn’t work in my chosen field,” Stoldal said today, after Channel 3 general manager Lisa Howfield announced Stoldal’s appointment as executive vice president of news. The position puts him in charge not only of the Channel 3 newsroom, but hands him responsibility for coordinating the news operations for all stations owned by Sunbelt Communication Co. in Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada, especially KENV-TV in Elko and KRNV-TV in Reno.
“I had a noncompete (contract clause) for a year and that expired July 1,” Stoldal said, referring to his departure last June from Channel 8, where he was vice president of news, the apparent end of a five-decade career. “I did have conversations with a couple of stations in this marketplace.” Channel 3 became the destination when the station fired its news director, Deborah Clayton, on July 24. Assistant news director Kim Sherwood also has been dismissed.
“When I announced it at the editorial meeting, everybody’s eyes got really big, big smiles and bumping knuckles and high-fives,” Howfield said. “I’ve gotten e-mail messages saying this is the best news (they’ve) gotten in a long time, people saying thank you.”
Stoldal, who turns 67 in September, inherits a news organization at low ebb, with stagnant ratings — on weekdays, only the 6 p.m. newscast wins with any consistency — and staff discontent, much of it over budget cuts, personnel decisions, departing newsroom staff and dissatisfaction with Clayton. “They have a good team over there, but every news department is like the army, there’s always some discontent,” Stoldal said. “But being a journalist is a pressure job. I have never been inside the Channel 3 building, but I look forward to being part of that organization.”
Stoldal declined to speculate on whether more layoffs will follow once he takes over. “No more that I’m aware of, but I don’t get into the loop-loop until Tuesday.”
What is certain is that Channel 3 management wants Stoldal to take the news department in a new direction. “I’m determined to take our news to the next level, make it the very best you’d ever want to watch, so we’ve got to change the way we do news,” Howfield said. “The only way that’s going to happen is to bring in someone who’s got a lot of experience, who’s well-respected and can put some plans into action. You get all that with Bob. If you talk with him for five minutes, he’s got really great ideas and fresh approaches.”
One of those might be a turn toward online interactivity. “If you look at CNN, they have significant elements on their newscasts from Twitter, from Facebook, they get instant feedback on news stories from viewers, so you have that additional tool,” Stoldal said. “But that can’t override everything. You still have to have at the top of your list the fundamental elements of journalism, which is to cover the news.”
A member of the Nevada Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Stoldal has lived in Las Vegas since 1957. He had his first media job with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and was a reporter, anchor and eventually news director at Channel 8. He was overseeing that newsroom, as well as operations at cable channel Las Vegas ONE and LasVegasNow, the Channel 8 Web site, when he left last year. A historian for Las Vegas’ centennial celebration in 2005, he also has served as chairman of the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society and the Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission.
“People have respect for Bob,” Howfield said. “When you work for someone who’s got that aura of respect, you work a little harder for them.”
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.