Heartland Chapter Inductees


Carl Bilek

It is not often we meet someone who truly makes a difference in the lives of others, but Carl Bilek is one of those people. He started on the desk when he was barely 20. His giggle was infectious; his work ethic contagious. Beginning as an intern, Carl inhaled every job description assigned to him at KWGN from 1989 to 2008: part-time writer, full-time associate producer, weekend producer, weekday producer, executive producer, assistant news director, and finally, news director.

His skill sets in television news grew rapidly. Strong on both the content and production sides, Carl could switch on a dime and give you nine cents change. He was the most consistent performer in the newsroom every day, with every job assigned to him. The consummate team player, the teacher, the glue. Carl made everyone on the team, both in the newsroom and in the studio, feel their jobs were essential to the success of the project at hand.

Watching Carl interact with reporters to bring out their best work was the best show in the newsroom. He worked with reporters, novice and seasoned professionals, helping them craft sometimes challenging assignments into well-thought-out stories. Occasionally, this was as simple as encouraging them to call someone else for information that could help them delve deeper into the story. Other times he would blow up their scripts and help them rebuild their packages from scratch. The reporters didn't mind because Carl always did it with a smile and explained why he was doing it in a way that was never condescending.

Carl took the time to make certain the person he was working with knew he wasn't just changing their script for the sake of change. He used every opportunity as a teaching moment, and the product was always better on that night and subsequent nights. While each story in a newscast stands out on its own, Carl was directing the story the newscast would tell as a whole, and the best way to do that was to start with the initial story selection.

Leading the news gathering operation at KMGH beginning in 2008, Carl became the nexus point in the newsroom. People gravitated to him. Journalists sought his guidance, direction, sensibilities, and compassion. Carl's innate ability to see the world as a positive place and instinctively put things in perspective gave life and force to the newsroom. As a news leader, Carl guided the reporting and editorial spirit. Under his direction, KMGH won numerous awards and distinctions. He was fair and thoughtful. Appropriately skeptical. Inquisitive and curious. And always understood and embraced the importance of our role in the community and democracy.

Carl's sense of dedication to family is always forefront. His oldest son fondly remembers car trips with Dad joyfully singing along to the newest song from Disney Channel. Taking an active role in the lives of five children, helping lug a tuba to and from band class, taking the girls to ballet, helping with homework, his perseverance feels like an overflowing pot of love and pride for his children.

Carl has served his community and the television industry with honor throughout his career. In addition, his service to the Heartland Chapter of NATAS and the National Board of Trustees has been exemplary. The level of respect that Carl has earned from his colleagues is a testament to not only the kind of professional Carl is but the kind of representative the television industry has in Carl.

It is how someone acts when the chips are down that you find who they really are. Carl has proven to colleagues both inside television stations and within NATAS that he can be relied upon for steady guidance and strong moral fiber, even in the most difficult of times.

Currently, as National Director of Content for Scripps, Carl steers daily national news coverage for more than a dozen television stations. In 2016, Carl also led Scripps coverage of two political conventions, several Presidential debates, the 2016 Presidential election, and the inauguration. His presence and leadership brought balance, credibility, and organization to those important moments in television. While leading the team, he is also a mentor to reporters and photographers. With his decades of experience, Carl coaches the reporters to become better storytellers and to always focus on facts and accuracy. On a daily basis, with each reporter he coaches, Carl continues to raise the standard of our industry.

Tom Green

Tom is one of the most recognized people in Denver television, having spent more than 35 years just in that city alone. First in sports, he has now been the face of morning TV on Channel 2 for more than 15 years. In addition to 10 Emmy® awards, Tom was named the Colorado Sportscaster of the Year 4 times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Associations.

Tom grew up in New York City, attended Ithaca College, and then started his TV career at a station in New Haven, Connecticut. He joined ESPN in the early days and was honored to work with and learn from big sports names: Bob Ley, Chris Berman, Greg Gumbel, Tom Mees, and Sal Marchiano.

Tom drove across the country to Colorado in 1982 to start his Denver career as a sportscaster at KUSA, where he says his mentors were Mike Nolan, Gary Cruz, and Corey McPherrin. Later, Tom became the main sports anchor at KMGH.

His experience also includes play-by-play, color, and sideline reporting for ABC and Fox Sports. Tom spent time in Hollywood hosting game shows, including a show called "Sports on Tap," a fast-paced, funny quiz show on ESPN.

Tom uses his standing as a respected journalist to raise awareness for a variety of good causes. Since 2001, he has promoted the "9/11 Day of Giving," raising nearly 1 million dollars in donations for the New York firefighters fund. In the past three years, he has helped raise an average $120,000 per year for Colorado cancer charities. For sixteen years, he has served as a board member of the Gold Crown Foundation, educating youth and community through sports and enrichment.

In 2002, Tom decided he wanted to try news and made the jump to be the anchor for KWGN's morning show, making his mark with that dry sense of humor and quick wit that sets the show apart. He is excellent with breaking news. He's the person you want at the desk when news is unfolding, and there's no time to write it. He has the ability to interpret the pictures and new information and deliver it on the air with perfect tone, pacing, and most of all, to be calm and organized with it the whole time.

Tom has a unique connection with viewers. He is one of the most recognizable and likable people on Denver TV. He has great respect for the viewer, reminding us often that the work we do is for them, that it's a privilege that people invite him and our show into their homes. He reminds us that our relationships with viewers should be respected.

While Tom is a serious newsman, many viewers and co-workers know him for his quick wit and smart-alecky sense of humor. It's what many viewers know him best for, always being there for a smart laugh. And he transitions from news to humor and back to news so easily and flawlessly; it just feels so natural and comfortable. Tom is simply a pleasure to watch.

Tom has given his heart and soul to covering sports and news in Denver for the past 32 years. He's part of the fabric here. There is no doubt that Tom has made a great contribution to the broadcast industry in Denver, both in sports and news: he is the ultimate newsroom quarterback – a leader with talent beyond measure with a humble nature. He guides young newsroom employees, teaching while cracking a joke that lightens every meeting.

John Kuhrt

There are a few people who embody what it means to be a television professional more than John Kuhrt. This is interesting given the fact that John was actually a music major at the University of Denver, graduating in 1981. But when he started working at Channel 9 in 1983, it was clear that video became John's art form.

His Heartland Emmy® Awards alone are startling: 39, beginning with the chapter's first year in 1987. He is a sports photographer and editor, gifted in both of these respects. During the football season, John produces whole programs that involve the work of only a few people, like Sideline Stories with Jim Saccomano, Broncos Tonight, and the Broncos Huddle. He is a photographer and editing machine who can edit long-form segments with effects and music. He's been involved with coverage of seven Broncos Super Bowls from 1987 to 2016.

We are a nation obsessed with "Super Star Athletes." We know them by one name only – Elway, Manning, Brady, LeBron, Jeter, and so on. At 9News and at the Denver Broncos, just one journalist has earned that status: his name is Johnny – even though his official security ID reads John Kuhrt.

Johnny is a Superstar in every way possible, in everything he touches. He is passionate, devoted, creative, tireless, fiercely competitive, and demanding of excellence. He has made a sport of photojournalism, editing, and storytelling. He is our MVP.

Johnny shows his unique skills in countless ways. Watch him shoot a Broncos game, and you will see his athleticism on display and his knowledge of the game. Like a coach, he can sense where the game is going and where the action will be within seconds. Johnny's passion for his work is only surpassed by his pursuit of perfection. Just like the athlete who shows up hours before the rest of the team or stays late watching film, Johnny puts in many, many extra hours to shoot, edit, or gather one more element for a story or a special project.

Covering a team like the Broncos is intensively competitive in this media market with an on-site crowd of more than 50 local reporters and frequent national visitors. John's unmatched work ethic and positive demeanor in this very demanding environment have earned the praise of his co-workers, competitors, and many members of the Broncos team.

In addition to working with the Broncos, John has easily covered at least 250 University of Colorado sporting events, mainly football and basketball. If you add up the total for Colorado's professional and collegiate teams, he has covered over 3,000 games.

John is known for his talent and dedication, someone who truly cares about his work, whether it's standing on the sidelines in cold weather, negotiating space on a crowded basketball floor, or arriving an hour ahead of a photoshoot to set the background so the mood for the piece will be just right. He has always been accommodating and easy to work with, and one you hope is assigned to your story.

John is very talented and able to bring stories to life and make them have the greatest impact. In addition, he is extremely kind and considerate to those he works with on stories. John is relentless and focused on producing excellent television, but whether he's working with people going through difficult medical problems or highly paid professional athletes, he treats everyone with the same kind of professionalism and respect.

He practices his craft with integrity and honesty. When he does a story about a person , he genuinely cares about them, and it shows in his work. He can't and won't do anything less than his best because he doesn't want to let them or the viewer down. If there is a trust issue right now in journalism, it is not because of John Kuhrt. He represents the standard by which we all ought to be measured.