“Stories produce stories,” Tony Kovaleski often says. He’s right. If Tony didn’t live by that principle, he wouldn’t be the stellar journalist, mentor and everyday person Colorado knows well today.
Tony’s story as a journalist began in Eureka, California in 1983. He held nearly every job title at the tiny KIEM-TV. He then moved to Reno, Nevada, where he worked for roughly five years at KTVN-TV – leaving the station as assistant news director.
Like anyone who has a large, infectious personality, Tony eventually outgrew the confines of small market television. His career began to flourish after he accepted a general assignment and investigative reporting job at KNXV-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, where we have documented proof that his signature suspenders were born into his wardrobe long before his time in Denver!
Tony has earned some of the highest honors in television journalism – deservedly so. Just in the last decade, he picked up a National Emmy Award, a Sigma Delta Chi Award, and an Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Award. He’s also collected more than two dozen local and regional awards.
Tony’s work has had a profound impact on the communities he’s served. In 2008, he uncovered emergency response failures at Denver International Airport, which forced the City of Denver to position a full-time ambulance there. In 2010, he exposed Governor-appointed directors for the state’s largest worker’s compensation insurance provider on a junket to Pebble Beach. Both stories have made Tony’s name synonymous with high-quality investigative journalism.
Just last year, Tony’s work changed how law enforcement agencies respond to domestic violence calls. Some of those agencies didn’t prioritize the calls, which may have contributed to the deaths of a number of women.
This year, Tony’s work has Colorado lawmakers addressing why schools are failing to tell parents about school employees who are accused of crimes. In one case, there’s evidence that leaders at one of the most high-profile public school districts in the state covered up allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher. Their actions led to criminal charges against them and likely contributed to the teacher victimizing other students for years.
Unquestionably, Tony’s reputation has made him one of the most trusted people in Colorado – even among people who had to answer some of his toughest questions in the field. Former longtime Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said “Without exception, my interactions with Mr. Kovaleski have shown him to be forthright and direct – he might ask hard questions, but I always knew he would report honestly.” Former Denver District Attorney Communications Director Lynn Kimbrough said “In all the years I have known Tony, he has repeatedly proven that he is a tenacious searcher of the truth, a patient researcher of documents, and a fair reporter of facts that his searching uncovers.”
Colleagues – past and present – laud Tony for having a profound impact on the television news industry on the whole. “Tony’s reporting is courageous,” former KMGH-TV News Director Jeff Harris said. “He has guts. I’ve been with him as he’s stood up to the most powerful people and organizations. Most importantly, his reporting has stood up.”
Anne Trujillo recalls working with Tony on several Columbine High School stories: “One night on Denver7, our station was airing an exclusive interview with the mother of one of the Columbine shooters and we knew this would be a tough night of television for our Colorado families. Tony was instrumental in working with the 10pm team to create a compassionate newscast with personal stories of impact that did not sensationalize the event. That newscast won an Emmy for Best 10pm Newscast.
Tony is also a mentor. He regularly interacts with young, aspiring journalists to share the tricks of the trade – to help their work stand out in a way that will benefit the communities they’ll serve in their careers.
At a time when our critics are questioning the very nature of free speech and the free press, Tony is not stopping his hard hitting reporting on issues of transparency, public corruption and open government. He is laying the groundwork for the next generation of reporters. He is a dedicated teacher, coach and mentor for investigative journalism – not only in his newsroom but in his company and amongst his professional colleagues. Reporters from cubs to veterans look up to Tony.