KING has served its local community, acting as a watchdog and offering a platform for discussion.
KING’s service to the community is reflected in a variety of ways.
Founder Dorothy Bullitt’s first dream was to broadcast classical music on the radio. The first year, 1948, was a bust. Her check to the Hooper audience rating bureau was returned, along with a note saying they couldn’t find any listeners! By the time the Bullitt family donated KING FM to the arts community in 1994, it was easily worth $25 million and had a worldwide audience, thanks to the internet.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, KING aired company commentaries, often aimed at getting citizens to participate in the civic life of their communities. Initially done by management, the commentaries were eventually written and delivered by news employees.
Charles Royer arrived in 1971 and delivered commentaries for six years before serving three terms as Seattle’s mayor. Others who offered commentary were Don McGaffin and Bob Simmons. Former NBC correspondent Jim Compton offered perspective on The Compton Report for 10 years. He was elected to the Seattle City Council in 1999.
WATCH: Charles Royer on interviewing for commentator position
Cheering them on was KING’s charismatic president for 16 years, Ancil Payne.
“Ancil could work a room quite well,” said former KING CEO Steve Clifford, who took over when Payne retired. “He was a very astute person and he was totally committed to the idea of TV being a public service.”
WATCH: Jean Enersen on pushing the status quo
Politics was a major focus for KING. News anchor Mike James covered the Republican National Convention in Dallas in 1984, where President Ronald Reagan was re-nominated for a second term.
For 11 years in the early 2000’s Up Front with Robert Mak explored political issues and vetted campaign ads in its wildly popular “Ad Watch.”
“You put it on display, and you break it up, and you explicate it, and you tell everything you can about it,” “Ad Watch” Producer Michael Cate said. “You look at all the claims, and people enjoy that!”
Northwest Cable News became the first regional outlet to provide live statewide caucus coverage in 2004. It was so innovative, it won the station a regional Emmy.
“It really invigorated the community to understand the politics of their own state,” said former Director of Operations Larry Blackstock. “It helped people get involved more.”
WATCH: James on covering 1984 Republican National Convention
KING didn’t ignore the thriving performing arts community. In the 1980’s, KING had two arts and entertainment editors – Lucy Mohl, who did films, and Greg Palmer, who did theater and whatever struck his fancy.
Communities of color were embraced for nine years in the mid 1980’s to 1990’s on Celebrate the Differences hosted by Enrique Cerna and Lori Matsukawa.
And communities hit by disaster, hunger, or violence were supported by KING telethons, drives, and town halls.
But at KING, the pinnacle of public service is investigative journalism.
From the very early years until today, KING reporters exposed policies and agencies that hurt people and especially, taxpayers.
“The reason we come to work every day and have this (investigative) unit is to enact change for the better in our communities,” said chief investigative reporter Susannah Frame.
For example, former investigator Linda Byron’s exposure of a statewide backlog of untested rape kits eventually led to legislation to process them. Investigator Chris Ingalls’ exposure of food stamp fraud led to several arrests and more policing. And Frame’s investigation of Hanford nuclear workers’ exposure to toxic vapors led to a historic settlement between the feds and the state of Washington.
“Today, if someone were to ask me, ‘Oh what kind of business are you in?’ One of the first things that would fall out of my mouth is: I’m in public service,” said Frame. “And I am so grateful that KING TV has given that gift to me.”
WATCH: Our stories have to be 'bullet proof,' Frame says