A farewell interview with Adele Arakawa

Adele Arakawa became a broadcaster at 16-years-old. She worked at a radio station in La Follette, Tenn. then. Now, after 43 years in the business, with more than 23 of them spent at 9NEWS, Adele is calling it a career on Friday.

KUSA - Adele Arakawa became a broadcaster at 16-years-old. She worked at a radio station in La Follette, Tenn. then. Now, after 43 years in the business, with more than 23 of them spent at 9NEWS, Adele is calling it a career on Friday.

She sat down with Kyle Clark for a farewell interview before she leaves:

KC: What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

AA: Oh, my gosh. That you are about to embark on a life journey like none other. You will learn a lot. You will cry. You’ll jump up and down with joy. You will meet some of the most incredible people. You’ll get to do this, and see things, and go places you’ve never been, and might not ever get to do otherwise. There are good things. There are bad things. Oh, my gosh. How many jobs can you do where there is something new every day, and you learn something new every single day, and if you don’t, it’s your fault.

KC: What did you think it was going to be when you were 16?

AA: I had no idea when I was 16. It was kind of cool. It was being in a field that women had really not made any inroads at all into. So it was kind of like, ooh, this is different. This is fun. This is something that not a lot of women do. And it was kind of in that time where women were still trying to prove themselves as contributing members of society. I mean, there were the days when you sat on a news set, you were set dressing. And that was a term that was used, was “set dressing.” So it didn’t matter what you had between the ears. It mattered what you had in front of your face. 

KC: When you came to 9NEWS in the early 90s, that marked the end of 9NEWS’ two-male-anchor model. The standard model in the industry. Can you imagine making that transition and that change in an era of social media, with the 24/7 feedback?

AA: Oh, no. it would have been crazy. It would have been disastrous. It would have been suicidal. But that wasn’t the first while male team I’d broke up either. It happened in Chicago, because Walter Jacobson and Bill Kurtis were a team in Chicago, at WBBM. And I didn’t “break them up,” but I was hired to replace one of them. So gender has always been a factor in my career path. Social media? Oh, my gosh. I don’t engage, as I should, but I don’t know if I would survive. Really. I know I’m pretty thick-skinned. I don’t know if I’m that thick-skinned.

KC: For all the trolls and nasty comments that everybody in the business gets, women in the television business get a special kind of just nasty, disgusting vitriol. Does it ever get to you?

AA: No. It really doesn’t, and I’m one of the few of my generation that is not on Facebook. I probably should be. I choose not to be. I do enjoy Twitter. I do enjoy engaging on Twitter, to a degree.

KC: That makes my heart so happy.

AA: Well, you were kind of a deciding factor in that, too. I’m like, ‘Hey, Kyle. How do you do that? Kyle, what should I say about this one?’

KC: But you do enjoy it.

AA: I do, and I have found it to be a source of information. It is not very well vetted and you have to pick and choose what are trustworthy sources, but that’s easily done. So what other avenue do you have that literally can give you information immediately as it happens? I mean, that’s the nature of our industry, and our business is going “live,” and bringing you information that’s happening now. It has never happened before on such a large scale and at such speed – ever before. It’s incredible.

Watch: A tribute to Adele from her former coworkers

KC: Are you hopeful about the future of journalism and TV news?

AA: You know, I’m a Pollyanna. I’ve always been that way. I’ve seen a lot of ugly things happen in this business. I’ve seen in morph. I’ve seen it change. I’ve seen it grow, and not always for the better. I think there will be kind of a pendulum swing back. For a long time we were here. We kind of went out here. I think we’re kind of making it back. It may never go center again but I think we will survive in some form or fashion. “We” being local news. Local news will survive. There is a need for local news, and there’s an appetite for it, and we do a service.

KC: What’s the course back to that center then?

AA: I don’t know. Like I said, it may not ever go back center again, and maybe it shouldn’t go back that way again. Because of social media, it has changed the way that we disseminate information. It’s changed the way people consume information. We’ve tried to keep up and we try to keep changing. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to keep pace with that rate of change.  And that’s the big question. That’s the question mark for everybody in this industry right now is, how do we survive? How do we make it work? How do we monetize it, like it or not. It’s just so different, and I’ll be frank with you, I feel like I’m kind of getting passed up. It’s hard for me to run, and catch up, and keep up anymore. That’s part of it. A lot of it is, oh my gosh, I’ve done it for 43 years. It’s time.

KC: You say it’s time. I also remember you saying “It’s time” something like five years ago. And then they kept asking you to stay, and stay, and stay.

AA: The thing is, the whole, I guess, philosophy of life is if you don’t enjoy getting up, not every day, most days, and want to go to work and feel like you’re valuable, feel like you’re challenged, feel like you’re mentally challenged, then it’s not worth it anymore. If you want to get up every day and you enjoy doing what you do, and enjoy the people that you work with, and feel like you’re making a difference, then you should keep on doing it. I’m just tired. I have other parts of my life that I’ve been cultivating for a very, very long time. It’s time to stop for a moment and kind of – I hate clichés – enjoy the fruits of your labor. I mean, there are just things that I have neglected, and not intentionally, but because it is such a demanding job. Things get pushed aside that should not get pushed aside, and they deserve some time now.

KC: I want to ask you about that specifically. You’re going to make a face because I’m going to compliment you. I have always admired your quick wit, and your intellect, and your professionalism, but I also admire your marriage. You have built an astonishing marriage despite all the pushes and the pulls of the business, and the hours and everything else. How did you and Barry do it?

AA: Well, he was a cop, and I was a radio reporter. Those are the two things – it’s the highest divorce rate at the time, you know. It was just a commitment. It is truly a commitment, and my husband, very, very early on, knew that I was pretty career driven at a young age. And told me – the quote was this: “I will never stand in your way.” And he never did, and he sacrificed a lot. I sacrificed for him, as well. It has always been the priority in my life. So there’s always kind of prioritization, if you want to put it that way, Number 1, 2, 3, 4, in that order. It cannot change. You cannot waver. I’ve given up a lot of personal time, yes, to be here, and to be part of the industry and work has just demanded so much of that part of me, that it takes a partner who understands that. By the same token, he is totally unaffected by it all. ‘Did you watch the news tonight?’ ‘No, I didn’t have a chance.’ ‘Did you see so-and-so?’ ‘No, I really didn’t.’ And he would watch on occasion, but it was not a part of my persona to him, and it wasn’t part of our persona as a couple. It was something that I had a passion for, that I did for a living, that he knew I loved doing. And it impacted our on the peripheral, but it never touched our core.

KC: I think you’re gong to walk out the door and you’re not going to miss it a bit, and that used to offend me, but then I think I realized it’s about just the closing of one door, and the opening of the other.

AA: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that you can get so tied up in this business that it’s not healthy, and I think that all of us go through that to a point. I couldn’t have done it 10 years ago. I would have regretted it. I probably couldn’t have done it five years ago. I would have regretted it. Now, I will not regret it. I am so ready to move on at this other juncture, take this path. There was some apprehension, as early as a year-and-a-half ago. It was like, oh my gosh, I’m going to end this all on June 30. I knew that 18 months ago. Now it’s become total anticipation. I cannot wait. I cannot wait. And it’s so bad. It kind of gushes out, but no, I can’t really wait. I’m so excited about doing this because there’s so much that we have planned. We’ve been together 40 years. We’ve been together 41, married 40. It’s a metaphor, because literally, on our 40th wedding anniversary, we are going to be driving down in an SUV to Arizona to begin this whole new chapter. So it is closing one door and opening up this other one, and when you step through that door, I don’t know if it’s going to be utopia, but I think it’s going to be pretty darn close.

KC: I know you won’t miss this. I hope you miss us. We will miss you.

AA: Absolutely. That’s the one thing that I will miss the most, are the people here. And for everybody that’s tuned in at home every night, faithfully, two days, two years, 20 years, whatever it’s been, and that’s made it so amazingly wonderful. I mean it really has. I have been – I’m not going to say lucky, because it’s not luck. I have been so blessed, and I know how blessed I have been, and I am everyday thankful for the life that I’ve been given.  

You can watch our full interview here:

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