To Doug Armstrong, running a television station is about more than just delivering the news. KTVB Boise’s president and general manager of 18 years has instilled a sense of community within the station — both the loyalty and stability among the staff and a charitable attitude toward the city and region.
“KTVB is an indispensable institution in Idaho,” says Alan Oldfield, a Magid & Associates VP who has advised the station for 25 years. “I honestly can’t point to another [station] that has the visceral, emotional connection that the station and organization has been able to establish with the people of Idaho and vice versa.”
Turnover is common in a market Boise’s size (No. 109) but not at KTVB, whose frontline anchor team has been there an average of 25 years. By turning down bigger cities and higherprofile markets, the staff of Idaho’s NewsChannel 7 has developed an abiding trust in one another and an unrivaled institutional memory.
Take the coverage of POW Bowe Bergdahl’s release from Taliban captivity in May. Much of the newsroom was around five years ago when Bergdahl, an Idaho native, was captured. “That institutional knowledge gives us the ability to go deeper in a story,” says Armstrong, 56. “It make stories relevant to the viewer.”
When news broke of Bergdahl’s release, Armstrong’s first call was to news director Kate Morris, handing her the keys to the station and instructing her to do whatever she needed. KTVB emerged first on the scene in Bergdahl’s hometown, anchored breaking news coverage nearby and registered a record 20 million-plus page views online that month. “When you have trust in people, you don’t worry they’re not going to do the right thing,” Armstrong says.
Since being purchased by Gannett last December, the NBC affiliate has seen improvements with a new editing system, facilities and graphics. The only Boise station that airs its local news in high definition, KTVB enjoys a preference rating of 67%, according to Magid’s Oldfield, and draws more viewers than the market’s next two stations combined. But the people of Boise are loyal to KTVB primarily, Armstrong says, because it serves the community.
The second weekend in December, the station held its sixth annual 7 Cares, Idaho Shares food and donation drive, a seven-hour, commercial-free telethon. As usual, Armstrong secured the Tyson Food Truck, which trekked 1,600 miles from Arkansas to unload 30,000 pounds of meat at Boise food pantries.
“The public knows the difference between community service being done to get paid,” Armstrong says, “and [community service being done] because we want to serve the community.”