On her radio show over the weekend, veteran journalist Julie Hayden said she’d had “dreams” about leaving local TV news, and finally the “universe conspired to give me a kick in the fanny.” And so she retired last week from Fox 31 Denver.
Most of the reasons Hayden gave on air for retiring are what you might expect to hear from a 58-year-old local TV news reporter. But others appear to be mysterious, like the universe.
Hayden’s parents, who were both declining, died during the last month, Hayden said in a touching moment during her KNUS 710-AM show Saturday, as she explained why she began thinking seriously about leaving the station. She also said she wants to spend more time with her son, and she has the opportunity to do other work on her terms. And the grind of the news business gets old, she said.
All that makes sense, but the mysterious part was the on-air explanation offered by Hayden’s co-host and husband, Chuck Bonniwell:
Bonniwell: And also, they suddenly discovered after 10 years you’ve got a radio program and that everybody in the news is on it. And they said, ‘Hey, you can’t do the radio program.’ And you said, ‘Wanna bet? [laughs] Wanna bet?’
Hayden: Yeah, the gen–.
CB: And we’ve also got an establishment Republican politician, who hates to be criticized, is calling everywhere we work and trying to get people fired. So, that’s fun! It’s always fun! It’s always exciting. There’s nothing but excitement.
As she often does, Hayden laughed off her husband’s comment, when he tossed it out there on air. It seemed as if she was about to respond to what he said, but, as he’ll do, Bonniwell talked over her.
So I called Hayden and asked if it was true that she’d been told to drop the radio program. I’d long ago questioned Hayden’s dual jobs as journalist and weekend opinion monger, and it’s true, if you follow Colorado politics closely, you’ve heard about the show. So it’s odd that the show would suddenly be a problem. But a source confirmed that station management told her she had to quit her radio work.
Asked about this, Hayden said:
Hayden: “Lawyers being involved in everything, I had to sign what is essentially a boiler-plate routine departure agreement that says I won’t talk about the specifics. I can neither confirm nor deny anything there.
And, the million-dollar question: Who was the “establishment Republican politician” referenced by Bonniwell? Or, more likely, because an establishment Republican is involved, that’s a multi-million-dollar question.
Hayden wouldn’t say.
It’s not as if there’s one establishment Republican who gets grief on Hayden’s and Bonniwell’s show, which is called, “Weekend Wakeup with Chuck and Julie.” With Chuck leading the way, the show goes after U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), and many others.
Did a Republican apply pressure on Fox 31 Denver to get Hayden off the radio air?
Fox 31 Denver General Manager Joan Barrett didn’t return a phone call.
But if there was a dispute between Hayden and her bosses at Fox 31 Denver, Hayden doesn’t seem to care at this point.
“But I will tell you it was all positive,” said Hayden, who emphasizes that she left the station on good terms with a three-cake party. “It just became clear that this was where I wanted to devote my time and energy. And I had a wonderful career in the TV news business, and I loved most of it. But for me, it just wasn’t that fun anymore. The business has changed. I had changed. It became totally clear that it was time to do some of the things I’d been talking about doing, rather than just talking about doing them.”
“Chuck put it well,” Hayden said on air Saturday. “And I don’t want to offend anybody, but [being in the local TV news business at her age is] kind of like being a 40-year-old stripper.”
Hayden, who also reported for Channels 2 and 7 over her career in Denver, told me she’ll sell advertisements and write stories for Bonniwell’s Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and “not have to stand by the side of the road in a blizzard and say it’s snowing. Not that that isn’t fun sometimes,” she said. She will also spend more time on the radio show and help at her daughter’s media company.
I talked to Hayden Tuesday just after she’d had breakfast with her college roommate.
“It was depressing how long it had been since we’d seen each other,” Hayden said.
“If I’d still been [working at Fox 31 Denver], and my old college roommate called, I would have had to say, ‘No, I can’t get together.’ But now I can.”
So if it’s true that an establishment Republican played a role in pushing Hayden out, it might be one of the best things the GOP has done in Colorado in a long time.
Transcript of discussion between Julie Hayden and Chuck Bonniwell Feb. 26 on KNUS 710-AM regarding Hayden’s retirement from Fox 31 KDVR-TV Denver
JULIE HAYDEN: You know, Chuck put it well. It’s kind of like being – and I don’t want to offend anybody – but, a forty year old stripper. You know? When I’m – I’m 58 years old and I’m a general assignment reporter and I have loved my career. But at a certain point, it’s just like, “You know, this is not as fun as it used to be, standing in the cold in the snow — in the blizzard by the side of the road, um, you know, it’s – it loses its luster after a while. And it was clear to me it was time. And I’ve been thinking about this a long time, too, you know, “Retire from doing the daily grind of the news business.” And, not to mention –.
CB: Well, you’re going to be in the daily grind of the news business, except with a small local paper!
Hayden: Yeah, so what I’m going to do is focus more time here at the radio station, focus time with Chuck’s newspaper, my daughter has a video production company and I’m going to be working at that. So, I have a lot of things going on. And, um, I’m really excited. Um, and it’s always nice, I think, in the TV business is such a – oh, a non-loyal one. It’s not – to me, it was a true joy to be able to go out on my own terms, rather than being like a 70 year old person in a walker where they slash my salary, and said, “You know, Julie? I think it’s time for you to go.” So, [a] lot of changes in my life, but –.
CB: And also, they suddenly discovered after 10 years you’ve got a radio program and that everybody in the news is on it. And they said, “Hey, you can’t do the radio program.” And you said, “Wanna bet?” [laughs] Wanna bet?”
Hayden: Yeah, the Gen–.
CB: And we’ve also got an establishment Republican politician, who hates to be criticized, is calling everywhere we work and trying to get people fired. So, that’s fun! It’s always fun! It’s always exciting. There’s nothing but excitement
[introducing the new producer]
Hayden: So, that’s it. For me, — just to kind of wrap it up – I do believe that, you know. I’ve had these dreams and plans and wanted to be leaving the TV news business for a while. So, the universe conspired to give me a kick in the fanny, and say, “What are you waiting for?” You know? “Go on! It’s time for some new adventures and some new things.”