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After more than 30 years in the Denver market, CBS4 News’ Jim Benemann and 9News Mornings’ Gary Shapiro both announced that they will soon hang up their microphones for good. Before the celebrated newsmen sign off, we asked them to cover one last story: their own.
5280: Finish this sentence. The most accurate thing about the movie Anchorman was…
Gary Shapiro: The most accurate thing in that movie was the mustaches. It was the ’80s. I had one, for sure. And Jim, I know you did, too.
Jim Benemann: Yeah, quick mustache story. When I went to Channel 9 in 1981, they had Ron Zappolo—mustache. They had Greg Moody—mustache. They had John Ferrugia—mustache. Roger Ogden, the general manager, said, “Jimmy, I don’t want to be the mustache station. Lose the mustache.”
Shapiro: When Dave Lougee became the news director at Channel 9 in 1990, he called me into his office and said, “You know, I think the era of mustaches is over, Gary. I think you need to get rid of the mustache.” I said, “Aw, really?” And he said, “Man, it’s not that good anyway.”
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Other than the facial hair, what has been the biggest change in TV news over the past three decades?
Shapiro: The way the internet has affected audiences. Channel 9 in the ’80s used to get about a 50 share on its 10 p.m. newscast [meaning half the households in the Denver market tuned in]. That’s incredible. Now, you’re lucky if you get a six or seven share. I don’t think the stories are all that different. We still try to give people information about their communities in a way that’s understandable and compelling.
Benemann: Local news didn’t just sit back and watch social media explode. Gary’s station was the blueprint in this market for how to be part of that. Now, all the stations have aggressive websites and are figuring out ways to monetize the eyeballs that visit those websites.
Anchorman lampooned the idea of TV newspeople being icons, but what’s it really like being a local celebrity?
Shapiro: Jim is more of a celebrity than I am, so I’ll let him talk about that.
Benemann: I do get recognized, but I am at a point in my life, 66 years old, where people say, “God, I remember when I was a toddler, my mom and dad used to watch you.” It’s a smack in the face that we’ve been at this for a long time.
Shapiro: I decided I wasn’t going to take myself too seriously after a guy came up to me and said, “I recognize you.” I said, “Channel 9?” And he goes, “No, that’s not it. You ever work at the meatpacking plant?”
What was the biggest story you covered?
Shapiro: In 1986, I went to Florida to do a piece on these great kids from Colorado who had won a contest to watch the Challenger space shuttle take off. We all know what happened to Challenger.
Benemann: The one that was such a game changer for our society and our community was the Columbine High School shooting. Sadly, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Benemann: No. I think the most important emotion I have as I move toward the door is gratitude.
Shapiro: I remember when I started on 9News Mornings, I thought I’d give it a year or two. Thirty-three years later, I still enjoy doing it. Although I am going to enjoy sleeping in.