Legere's influence felt throughout Alaska media

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a reception at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. While I always enjoy going to this small but charming repository of our community's rich history, this was an extra-special visit given the reasons I was there of the event. This was a party to celebrate the induction of Bill Legere, the General Manager of Capital Community Broadcasting, into the Alaska Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

I first met Bill in 1992, when I went to work for the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN) right after he had been promoted to General Manager from Radio Manager. KTOO-FM was then and remains today an key member of APRN and a major force in public broadcasting in Alaska. I was the administrative assistant to the executive assistant to the president and CEO of APRN, but Bill was pleasant and engaging in all of our interactions. While my job was at times unglamorous, I am to this day extremely grateful for the opportunities it provided me. I learned a great deal about the news and information business in Alaska, and I also got to meet a number of wonderful Alaskans whom I know and with whom I still get to work to this day. Bill is among the greatest leaders and kindest people I have met in all that time.

When I met Bill he had been working at KTOO for a relatively short time, but he was an expert in quality public radio. After my tenure at APRN I became a legislative aide, and thus lived in Juneau during the legislative session each year. In early 1993, I heard a call for volunteer radio hosts on KTOO, and I signed up for a classical music show. I was quickly welcomed into the KTOO family, and rapidly came to appreciate what a great group of people in encompassed, and what an tremendous contribution they made to the quality of life in Alaska's Capital City.

During the mid-1990s there were some serious challenges to state funding for public radio and television, and as a legislative aide, I had some sense of where the challenges could be most effectively countered. I watched and worked with Bill as he pursued a winning strategy, fighting off the most menacing proposals, and increasing the overall level of support for public broadcasting across the ideological spectrum in the Legislature. One of the ways I admired his doing this was his willingness to increase efficiencies through consolidation. Bill was integral to the creation of CoastAlaska, the consortium of public radio stations in Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Ketchikan that continues to thrive today. In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the CoastAlaska Board of Directors, but my admiration for the way it was created in the face of adversity and has evolved over time exists independent of this affiliation.

Another really ingenious move spearheaded by Bill was the creation of Gavel to Gavel Alaska. At the same time he faced challenges to maintaining the status quo, Bill decided to try to create a new service, one which was initially met with opposition by some powerful legislators who did not want legislative proceedings televised for a statewide audience. Successfully seeking out new resources, from groups that had never collaborated to fund anything together before, Bill convinced the legislative naysayers to give his idea a chance, and the rest is history. As a legislative aide, I was quite impressed how he brought cameras and crews into the Capitol, literally creating a direct link to state government for Alaskans across the Great Land. It is no understatement to say Gavel to Gavel may be the single greatest step Juneau has taken to make the Capital City more accessible, and to foil nefarious capital move schemes.

After six years as a legislative aide, I went away to law school, but I ended up moving back to Juneau to clerk for Judge Larry Weeks, and of course Bill was still hard at work providing outstanding public media services to the people of Juneau and all Alaska. I was elected to the Capital Community Broadcasting Board of Directors a few years after my return to Juneau, and my appreciation for Bill's talents and vision grew to a new level. After I had been elected chairman, an interesting opportunity came before the board. There were two moribund FM stations in Juneau that had no local content, with even the weather forecasts coming from a computerized national service. Bill asked the board to consider KTOO's buying these two licenses, and trebling the public radio services available to listeners in Juneau. I must admit, this goal seemed audacious and a little scary, but Bill encouraged us to consider the perils of merely trying to survive and maintain what we already had. We engaged in a cautious and deliberative examination of what three stations would look like, what it would cost, and whether listeners and the community would support the change. After thinking it through with rigorous care, we decide to move forward, and I believe the K3 stations are a massive success.

These are but a few examples of Bill Legere's monumental contributions to Juneau. His induction to the Alaska Broadcasters' Hall of Fame is an eminently appropriate token of recognition for a wonderful career. Bill is a quiet and unassuming person, who never seeks the limelight. I am particularly grateful that despite his receipt of this accolade, his work is far from over. The changes sweeping the telecommunications industry are not slowing down; if anything the pace of technological revolution is increasing. All of us in Juneau, indeed all Alaskans, are fortunate that Bill is here to help us make sense of digitalization and the unstoppable move toward web-based delivery of content that is currently broadcast.

The next time you see Bill, make sure you congratulate him on this richly-deserved honor. He certainly won't bring it up, but he deserves all of our thanks and praise.

• Brown is an attorney who lives in Juneau.

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