When KOMO TV’s Ken Schram signed off Monday night, it was the end of an era for the veteran broadcaster, and TV news in general.
After a 35 year run, Schram delivered the last of his iconic, one-of-a-kind commentaries on Monday. The station announced last week it was buying out his contract and ending his award-winning run with the venerable Seattle broadcaster.
“I don’t know what happened, to be quite honest with you. It’s never been fully explained to me,” Schram told Seattle’s Morning News as he prepared to head to KOMO one last time to clean out his desk.
“It was strange. I don’t know if hard is the right way to put it,” he said of his final commentary, in which he challenged opponents of gay marriage to get over it before saying thanks and so long.
Schram built his reputation as one of Seattle’s most dogged, hard-nosed political reporters. But he’ll be best remembered for his “Schrammie” awards. The scathing, semi-satirical honors calling out the absurdities, misdeeds and hypocrisies of public leaders and institutions.
“I’ve tried to be fair with them across the board. I’ve given them to conservatives, to liberals. It’s meant to represent the knot heads of the world who’ve really done just dumb, stupid, inexplicable decisions,” he said.
Ironically, while the Schrammie’s became his calling card, they weren’t even his idea. At first he didn’t want to do them.
“I resisted it because I didn’t want to become something of a caricature.”
As for his departure, Schram says he’s heard through the grapevine the station wanted to cut back on full time employees and go in a different direction with the news. But no one from management has sat down with him to explain the decision. They simply let his agent know he was out.
“I’m not angry, I’m not bitter. I’m certainly very disappointed in the manner in which everything was handled, but we know the nature of this business,” he said.
It’s a business that’s changed dramatically since he started over three decades ago. Long gone are the days of a grizzled, veteran journalist delivering a hard hitting commentary or analysis on the minutia of a legislative budget deal. But Schram hopes the next generation doesn’t lose sight of what really mattered to him.
“I would say try very hard to enter the business as a journalist and don’t succumb to the temptation of being a TV reporter.”
Schram doesn’t know what he’ll do next. But as he signs off for the last time at KOMO, he leaves behind a legacy as well as a challenge.
“I’m tired of the house fires, I’m tired of the crime stories. I think it’s our obligation to take complicated political stories, for example, and explain them in a way that really becomes meaningful to people so they know what decisions are being made and how they will impact their lives. That’s our responsibility.”