Update: Mike Landess, retiring 7News anchor, on whether he jumped or was pushed
Update: Since the publication of our post about the retirement announcement of Mike Landess from 7News (see our previous coverage below), we've gotten a chance to chat with the longtime Denver TV anchor -- and his comments are frank and forthright.
"When someone my age leaves, the first question you hear is, 'Did he jump or was he pushed?'" says Landess, 68. "And the answer is 'yes' to both."
According to Landess, multiple factors led to his retirement decision. "Some of it is the pressure of the industry," he acknowledges -- and if anyone understands what that means, it's Landess. He's spent half a century in broadcasting, 80 percent of it as an anchor.
"Forty years is a long time to have that job," he admits. "So when you comes time to do something different, you have to think seriously about it -- and fifty years was a nice peg to hang it on."
Times are tight for local network affiliates, and most industry insiders believe the decision of stations to part ways with familiar faces such as 9News' Kirk Montgomery and Susie Wargin is often driven by financial considerations. Landess says economic issues have been growing in prominence.
"I don't have any specific information about people at other stations at this point," he allows. "But I can tell you anecdotally that virtually all major talent in all the major markets have taken hits since probably at least 2009. Anytime someone comes up for a contract, they take a hit. All of us have."
Mike Landess started anchoring at Channel 9 in 1977 and remained in the job for sixteen years.
Meanwhile, Landess says that in recent years, he's become more interested in opportunities beyond the anchor desk.
For instance, he particularly enjoys "working with young people in college classes and being part of seminars talking about how we can use Facebook and Twitter and these evolving technologies." Unlike some of his peers, who grouse about social media and the negative impact critics think it has on news dissemination in general, he's excited by the possibilities. "The ability to vet it is still evolving," he says, "and that's one of the biggest challenges." But he likes the idea of finding ways to take advantage of these tools as opposed to railing against them, and even suggests a personal hashtag for this piece: #notdeadyet.
Likewise, Landess has valued the chance to work with the University of Colorado Hospital, which he credits with saving his life when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer -- a health crisis that he detailed in reports like the one in our original post. And he's also a guitarist and enthusiastic luthier who's built his own instruments since he was a teenager and enjoys playing them with his grandson and sons-in-law, as he did at a recent corporate event.
The appeal of such sidelines hasn't extinguished his interest in what's going on in the world. In recent years, "we've covered some of the most historic events Colorado has ever seen," he says, including "wildfires, floods, the Aurora theater shooting." He adds that "I feel good about how we handled those stories" and values the honors he and the station have received as a result, including a 2013 Peabody.
Still, such baubles hold only a limited appeal for him these days. "After you get five Emmys saying you're the best anchor in the market, how many more do you need before you believe you're pretty good at your job?" he asks.
Landess getting his blood drawn during his cancer treatments.
With that in mind, Landess has set August 31 as his final day as 7News anchor, and he's grateful for the responses he's received since news broke.
"I spent more than half my career in Denver: 28 years," he says. "And it's been a privilege to be here on the air and cover the stories I've covered and meet the people I've met. And all the messages on e-mail and Twitter touch me very deeply. It's emotional."
He doesn't take this affection for granted. About a year ago, he recalls, "I got an e-mail from a woman who said, 'I've never met you, I don't know you personally, but during 911, I was at a conference in Washington [where Landess anchored shortly before his 2002 return to Denver] and I saw you on the air. I knew you from Denver and felt a connection, and that made all the difference getting through those tough days.'
"I guess that makes sense," Landess says. "If you thought the whole world was blowing up, you might think, 'Hey, I know that guy.' And it made a difference to her.
"I've loved this job," he emphasizes. "But I'm excited to move on to whatever the next phase is."
Continue for our original post about Mike Landess's retirement announcement.