You don’t have to be hit over the head to see that former KSTP-TV anchor Vineeta Sawkar is extremely equanimous.
She’s exactly the kind of person you want delivering bad breaking news — not jumpy or overly emotional or prone to making the news about herself. And she was as affable when the news was good as she was the day of this interview, during which she laughed freely.
But that wasn’t enough for Hubbard Broadcasting, where the five-time Emmy winner spent 17 of her almost 23 years in TV news. A year ago she was given a year to find another job.
When asked why she wasn’t retained, Sawkar told me that was a question for Hubbard Broadcasting executives. Well, they’re never going to say, but the buzz around the station is that Sawkar was told she was not bringing in viewers. If that’s the case, she is clearly being held to a different standard than just about anybody anchoring or hosting an afternoon TV show at that station. Viewers showed Sawkar the love, however, sending so many flower arrangements, “It looked like I’d died.”
I offered up a “club” and my head as stress relief for Sawkar, who did not take full advantage as you can see on my startribune.com/video.
Q For a year you have known that you were essentially not wanted at KSTP. What kind of hit is that to your self-confidence?
A It hurts, sure. Absolutely it does. But I just kind of plugged away, did my job. Enjoyed being there. Sort of took in my last State Fair. Just kind of going through “OK, this could be it.” At the same time I was job hunting. I was having coffees, lunches, doing a lot of research and trying to figure out “OK, what do I do next?” It’s a tough thing when you’ve been doing something for 23 years. Whatever you want to say, I do appreciate that extra year. There could have been a lot of other things that could have been done, and I appreciated that extra time. It was strange at times, helpful at times, but I learned a lot about myself. It was tough at times, too. But I made it through it.
Q So you didn’t mind that the Band-Aid was taken off slowly instead of ripped off?
A I go back and forth. Would it have been easier if they said out? But you know, I did appreciate it. You know it’s a weird thing — when it came out in your column, then everybody knew. It was a little easier when no one knew. But when everybody knew, I’d go to the grocery store and people would ask me, a concert, sporting event, wherever, and people would ask: What are you going to do next. I don’t know yet.
Q I am told that you have shown up with a smile every day and given 100 percent. And I’m told you have some of the best sources and contacts in the newsroom.
A Isn’t that nice. That means so much to me. I tell you, when your co-workers like you and you get along, that means the world to me.
Q Now you’re on the beach, as they say in TV?
A On the beach. What beach! It’s snowing [in May]!
Q I seem to remember that you were on the trajectory to being a main anchor just before Harris Faulkner came to town.
A I always kept trying, and Harris got the job and did a great job, and after she left Cyndy [Brucato] came and I was on the 5 p.m. anchor desk for about nine months with John Mason, and I was also the weekend anchor. I was hoping to get that evening job. But you know what, in the end it really did work out, because if I [had] worked evenings, I wouldn’t have seen my children very much. That’s really, really important to me. When Angela [Davis] left and I got the morning job, that was so huge, because even though I got up early I could be there for my kids in the afternoon. I could volunteer in their school. That means so much to me.
Q Rumor has it that you have a job lined up, you’re just being secretive about it.
A [Laughter] Where are you hearing these rumors? I’ve got a few things cooking. I’m not yet ready to say.
Q Are you always calm and relaxed?
A I fake it well. I don’t know.
Q What was the last time you yelled at somebody?
A [Laughter] Maybe you’d have to ask my family. [She has a husband and two kids.] Probably in the car, when I’m mad at traffic, people doing dumb things.
Q Do you ever cut loose Gangnam Style on the dance floor?
A [Loud laughter]. Of course. I can dance. I love dancing and all that kind of stuff. [She declined to be videotaped dancing.]
Interviews are edited. C.J. is at email@example.com.