A new era was launched last Friday at KTVX.
The Riesen-Perkins Era.Sure, it's still the same basic KTVX News team and format that has risen to a solid second place in the early evening news race and a more respectable third in the late-night news. The same reporters that you've grown to know - and in some cases, fear - are there, as are weathercaster Rebecca Rehies and sportscaster Steve Brown.
Even longtime KTVX anchor Phil Riesen is holding his familiar position on the KTVX News set. But the woman at his right isn't Karen Carns anymore. She has moved on to Phoenix, leaving the co-anchor slot to 30-year-old Kimberly Perkins. And Perkins is indeed new to Utah.
And that sort of makes everything else seem new, doesn't it?
While it's true that a quality television newscast is a sum of many parts - writing, reporting, editing, producing, directing and photography, to name just a few - no one disputes the impact of the anchors on public perception.
"The anchors are the figures audiences can identify with most clearly," Perkins said during an interview at Deseret News offices just hours before her KTVX debut. "But they are only a small part of the total team effort it takes to put the news on the air. I never want to lose sight of that."
That's probably because for most of the past 10 years of her broadcasting career, Perkins - known up until now by her maiden name, Adams - has been a reporter first, anchor second. Most recently she worked as a health reporter/morning anchor at Pittsburgh's KDKA, and before that at TV stations in Rochester and Binghamton, N.Y.
"I love the creative energy of television reporting," said Perkins, a former high school cheerleader. "To me, there's nothing better than sitting down at a desk with a stack of tapes, a word processor and a deadline to meet. The best time in journalism is from 4-6 p.m., when everyone is pushing to get ready for air. There's nothing like the feeling of putting it all together."
But she's an anchor now, and at KTVX that means less writing and more editing.
"We've talked about it, and she wants to get out and do stories from time to time," said KTVX News director John Edwards. "But mostly she'll be editing the copy she reads on the air - and writing as much of it as she wants to. At our place the anchors write as much as they choose."
One gets the feeling Perkins will choose to do a lot of it. "I love the writing," she says.
She also loves Utah. Now, I know that may be tough to swallow, since she's only been here since Feb. 5. But her recent visits with community leaders along the Wasatch Front have confirmed the initial impressions she had when she was in Salt Lake City to apply for the job late last year: Utah really is a pretty, great state.
"I've been getting a crash course in what Salt Lake City and Utah are all about, and I'm more excited than ever," she said. "I came out here with the preconceived notion that Utah and Utahns would be more rural and unsophisticated. I had no idea what a rich, interesting community this is, or how wonderfully warm and cosmopolitan the people are. And the beauty . . . I still can't believe those pictures I'm seeing outside my window aren't color enhanced.
"I liked Utah a lot after my first visit," she added. "I love it now."
And she'll love it even more after her husband, Jim, joins her later this year. Jim is the head swimming coach at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and he will stay there with his team until the swimming season is over. But then he'll join his wife and 7-month-old daughter, Katelyn, in the house they have purchased in Sandy.
"We can't wait to get out and travel around the state and get to know our new home," Perkins said.
Of course, Perkins acknowledges that some things will take a little getting used to - like living in the spotlight in a state where news anchors are local celebrities.
"I'm a rather conservative person, so it's not like I'm going to have to control drinking binges or anything like that," she said. "But if I got out to dinner and want to have a little wine, I'm not going to hide it. I am who I am."
And right now, who she is is the new face in the local news race - and the personification of a new era at KTVX.