Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Brittani Shelley and Ward & Kirsten Morrison some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

KING's queen: Jean Enersen's 35-year run might be the longest in television

Channel 5's franchise player has survived in a notoriously unforgiving business. With the retirement of Natalie Jacobson in Boston, Enersen now stands apart. What's the key to her longevity?
KING-TV anchor Jean Enersen, then and now.

KING-TV anchor Jean Enersen, then and now. None

Natalie Jacobson is leaving the anchor desk this week at Boston's WCVB-TV after 35 years. I don't know who keeps tabs on such things, but that might leave Jean Enersen as the nation's longest-serving anchor at a single TV station. Or at least one of the longest in a major market. Enersen joined KING-TV in Seattle in 1968. She became an anchor in 1972, promoted by news director Norm Heffron to work beside Jim Harriott, who died recently. Enersen and Jacobson were among the first female anchors in TV journalism. Enersen arrived during a period of extraordinary creativity and quality at Dorothy Bullitt's KING, led by Charles Royer, Don McGaffin, Mike James, and many others. KING's reporters broke stories, exposed crooks, and framed civic debate, an unlikely scenario in today's broadcasting, though several fine reporters, such as Robert Mak, Linda Byron, and Linda Brill still work at Channel 5. Enersen made a path for future female anchors and helped put a luster on KING that was dulled later by cutbacks and turmoil in the communications industry, first in broadcasting and now at newspapers. I still watch KING more than other stations, mainly out of habit. One channel's newscast seems pretty much like another. Enersen for a time cut a dashing figure, reporting from Moscow or Beijing, interviewing presidents, anchoring major specials on the big topics. More than once, there was talk of her running for office, following colleagues Royer (who won, becoming mayor of Seattle) and James (who did not). She had one career disappointment. The top boss at KING, Ancil Payne, told NBC she'd make a great host for the Today program. But that job in 1976 went to a Chicago broadcaster, Jane Pauley. Today, Enersen's work as news reader is still strong, providing adistinction, humor, and context, especially about politics and Seattle history. Her reports on health topics are less impressive, mainly canned features on research findings of dubious validity. If you eat red onions, you are a little less likely to get liver failure, or is it strawberries and bone loss? Outside the station, she remains a fixture on the charity circuit, a prized emcee and advocate for causes such as the Northwest AIDS Walk. Enersen is a survivor. At KING, she outlasted a score of co-anchors, as well as rivals at other stations, with the exception of longtimer Kathi Goertzen at KOMO-TV. Enersen's a big presence, but also unknowable. Working in a profession of people who want to know "the real you," she's been among the best at protecting her privacy. We know little about her personal life, despite 35 years of items in the dailies. Little was written about an Enersen divorce from Paul Skinner; she later married Bruce Carter, a biotech exec. (By contrast, Jacobson, in Boston, could not avoid headlines during a breakup with long-time co-anchor and husband Chet Curtis.) More important, Enersen's been careful to stay out of conflicts or to make public her views on industry changes. If she tried to use her clout to press for certain programming, we don't know. Doubtless, that caution has been an element in her tenure. Women in broadcasting seem to carry a heavier load, as Katie Couric can tell you. And it's brutal on anyone who develops a wrinkle and looks old, even if ratings are improving, as Bob Schieffer can tell you. Enersen has survived all the changes, the cutbacks, the bellowing news directors who arrive with new wisdom, the petty jealousies in the fight for air time, the sheer grind of deadlines, and getting her own share of wrinkles. She was and is the brand at KING. The franchise. No one at any other station or in any other newsroom in our city can claim that status.

O. Casey Corr is a Seattle writer who has worked for The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He now is employed at Seattle University as director of strategic communications. You can e-mail him at casey.corr@crosscut.com.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 7:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Who cares, Casey?: She's a talking head on TV like tens of thousands of talking heads on TV. If this is news, my name is Frank Blethen. If this is the best you can do, I give Crosscut till the end of the year.

ivan

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 8:39 a.m. Inappropriate

More than media: IMO Enersen stands as a role model not just for media, but for all women, working or not. The fact she's maintained that status for 35 years is pretty amazing.

Joyce Taylor may not be of the same cloth as someone like Robert Mak but, FWIW, she's likely to inherit Enersen's Tiara - if a national network doesn't grab her first.

Perhaps some folks like the 'reality', and connection, of staying local? That may well be the biggest reason for her staying power, good enough to go bigger but choosing a more modest success.

Speaking of her not throwing her weight around - did she have a spat with Ventrella?

-D

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 9:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Kudos for Jean: Jean Enersen is not only an excellent news anchor, she is a role model and inspiration for many women who have watched her from the beginning. Beyond that, she is one of the true Seattle treasures who has chosen to actually stay in Seattle--a golden thread of continuity--a rare breed. The rest of our Emerald city may be razed and sold out, but Jean still stands tall.

Nice story!
MaryW

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 11:17 a.m. Inappropriate

The quality of Crosscut as a news source or whatever it is.: I agree with the statement "Frank Blethen" makes above. To paraphrase: Crosscut sucks! There is very little new here each day; and most of it isn't worth reading.

Jean Enerson? Sheeeeeez!

Take some chances! Challenge local power! Muckrake! Stop sucking up to the insiders who run this community!

It's no wonder you guys found yourselves unemployed and had to create your own job. When you run out of your startup money you'll be gone. And no one will miss you.

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 11:44 a.m. Inappropriate

dont know what you got...: I,ll miss you.

sunshine

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 12:29 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: The quality of Crosscut as a news source or whatever it is.: Reverend, as someone who posts frequently about how bad Crosscut is, you sure spend a lot of time around here.

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

jean the dream: nice article.

jean's as nice as can be....and i'd say her longevity has as much to do with her being a good person as it does her great talent.
cupcake

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 4:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Jean Enersen?!?: Everyone knows that King's Queen is Bea Donovan!

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 5:40 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Jean Enersen?!?: dbreneman, you are absolutely right. But I figured Bea wouldn't mind sharing the title.--Casey

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 6:51 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Jean Enersen?!?: Bea was one of my first cooking teachers. Whenever home from school sick, Bea would be my companion with her white hair and soft, grandmotherly voice. She taught me how to bake fish, bless her heart.

How come there aren't any Bea Donovan's any more? I mean, Robert Mak seems like a nice guy, but what does he now about sewing a straight seam?

The Piper

Posted Tue, Jul 17, 11:29 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: The quality of Crosscut as a news source or whatever it is.: Actually Mr. Taylor, I spend very little time at this site. I don't even have it bookmarked. Occasionally there will be a story in the community that I find very interesting and I check many local websites for different points of view. I surf Crosscut perhaps two times a month at most. And I usually stay for not more than a few minutes at most for reasons I have already stated. I am checking back in today to see what the response is. Oh! I should check your archives and see if you ever wrote your promised explanation of what the mission of Crosscut is. Mr. Taylor I just don't see "a platform for new tools to convey news."

Posted Wed, Jul 18, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: Jean Enersen?!?: Local programming (except for very profitable nooz shows) is dead because it's easier and cheaper to pull stuff off a satellite than to hire the talent and technical staff to produce locally. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, stations had full-time camera operators, audio mixers, engineers, set builders, editors, etc., on staff all day long. You were paying those people, so you put them to work. Now, they're usually just called in part-time as needed. I was lucky enough to work on one of the last locally produced Seattle shows, The Spud Goodman Show, and the three years we were at KTZZ we were pretty much it as far as use of their studio went. And except for the stage manager, an engineer and an editor, we were our own production company, and all volunteer staff who did the work because we believed in the value of local programming.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Jul 18, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Did Jean every smoke Marijuana?: Like on that occassion she and Jeff Renner hung out in the JP Patches studio in 1973, after the 11:00, and before they finally tore the studio out.

I wonder if she enjoyed it?!

-Douglas Tooley
Tacoma, WA

Posted Sat, Jul 21, 4:49 p.m. Inappropriate

TV News: Still an oxymoron: So, she can read. So what? They're all the same.

fshi

Posted Wed, Jun 10, 12:06 a.m. Inappropriate

While the longevity is noteworthy, given the sleeze aspect of local TV station management, she has been reduced to a reader of pablum. The so called news now is tear jerkers re DSHS screw ups, or 5 minutes to grieve for the Rainier valley thug shot 4 times OR I left my dog at a Arco AM / PM in Boise and he walked all the way back to Seattle.

Local TV "news" shows reflect the mentality and IQ level of what's left watching.

Frankly, I would be embarrassed to read such crap.

Posted Wed, Jun 10, 8:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Boy what grumpy bunch of letter writers out there. Is the economy that bad that you are all unhappy about Jean and Crosscut and probably everything else. Or is Seattle just that unhappy of a city. Come on folks the sun has been out for weeks. Be happy!

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »