“Colorado is kind of funny like that,” Kyle Clark said.
The 9NEWS anchor is talking about the propensity for natives of the state having disdain for transplants and newcomers.
“Disliking newcomers is a luxury that economically prosperous and viable places have,” he continued. “I grew up in the rust belt—a small town—and we would have loved it for someone to move in and like it there.”
Clark was one of those newcomers, making the jump from small markets near his home in western New York to a top-20 market in Denver as a 20-something in 2007.
“He was barely out of college, but he stood out right away as a reporter, because of his ability to research and study and write and be a great live reporter and challenge conventional wisdom and debate and search for more answers,” said fellow 9NEWS anchor Kim Christensen. “All of those things don’t typically show up in one person as a reporter.”
Despite being young for the market, Clark quickly earned the trust of his colleagues at the KUSA station, building a reputation for being strong enough to tackle tough or controversial assignments. In 2009, just two years after joining the news team, he won an Emmy Award for his coverage of a local forest fire.
Perhaps it was his love of craft beer or his seamless adoption of the Denver Broncos, two of Colorado’s favorite pastimes. Whatever it might have been, his popularity grew with viewers, too. There is even a twitter account dedicated to his pants.
“You can be a great live reporter and a really clever writer and then when you’re jumping into an anchor position, especially a primetime position, you have to win over some old-school type of viewers,” said Christiansen. “Because he’s different and original sometimes they don’t all appreciate his sarcastic sense of humor.”
His snarky personality landed him in the national spotlight when he gave a rare, on-air editorial in 2013. The segment, which could really be considered more of a rant, decried the long and proud Coloradan tradition of submitting photos to the local stations of patio furniture covered in snow. The video was shared nationally and popped up across the Internet.
But the rant wasn’t from an outsider.
“He is incredibly witty and funny and creative. He understands the quirkiness of the Colorado personality,” said Christensen, a native and former Miss Colorado. “People in Colorado do much more than stand at the door and take a picture of the patio furniture. That isn’t who we are and he seized upon that.”
Clark found himself as the subject of national attention once again in 2015 when an on-air interaction with weather anchor Kathy Sabine was shared across social media. Their back-and-forth banter which ended with Clark saying, “Well, please don’t ever touch me again!” appeared on The Tonight Show.
After eight years, Coloradans have grown immensely fond of Clark, and Clark of Colorado. He enjoys the stories that are uniquely Colorado, the narcotics anonymous group that was forced to leave their meeting place due to dispensaries moving in on either side of them in the strip mall.
As for Clark’s popularity, he is the 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. host of what is by far the highest-rated broadcast in the city. KUSA pulls in nearly three times the ratings during the 6 p.m. slot compared to the nearest competitor. At the 10 p.m., the station’s share is double their nearest competitor.
Clark’s role is not reduced to the anchor desk, though. He hosts Balance of Power, a political show airing Sunday mornings during election years. He earned praise from Marty Kaplan of The Huffington Post in an article titled “These Two Dudes in Denver Should Moderate All the Debates” for his moderation of a debate for a Colorado Senate Seat in 2014. The anchor is still active in doing investigative reporting with the “9 wants to know” team.
In short, Coloradans trust him for more than light-hearted entertainment.
“In the news business sometimes there is something that happens and you either sink or swim in a big way,” Christiansen said. “Those are times when our community has these days that have changed the fabric of our community.”
The Aurora theater shooting took place shortly after midnight on July 20, 2012. Twelve people were killed in the attack while 70 others suffered injuries. That was just 20 miles from, and 13 years after, the Columbine school shooting in 1999 that set off a wave of similar incidents in subsequent years across the country.
That morning of July 20, Coloradans awoke to Clark anchoring coverage of the event. He was still at the desk when they went to bed that night, 17 hours in all.
If nothing he had done before earned the respect of the old school viewers, the coverage on that day surely did.
“You want to compare it to a Cronkite moment,” said Christiansen. “You decipher that information and provide some level of comfort as you are with everybody in the moment and suddenly you are part of Colorado.”