Another standout Denver television news personality, Fox31 host and reporter Michael Konopasek, is leaving broadcast journalism; today, May 23, is his last broadcast on the station. But unlike many of those who have recently left local outlets in favor of gigs in entirely different professions, Konopasek will still provide information – albeit from the other side of the fence between interviewers and interviewees. He was hired as Corporate Communications Manager for Denver-based Frontier Airlines.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation,” says Konopasek, whose responsibilities include hosting Sunday morning shows on Fox31 and its sister station. KWGN/Channel 2. “As a reporter, I took every opportunity to write stories about aviation. And it’s a really exciting time to be with the company.”
In fact, there’s a lot going on at Frontier right now. Earlier this year, the airline announced a merger with another low-cost airline, Spirit – and while JetBlue is trying to prevent the completion of such a transaction through a hostile takeover bid, the main flight attendants’ union backed the deal last week, removing a potential handicap to the corporate marriage.
No matter what happens to Spirit, Konopasek is excited to take on a new challenge. But he admits the transition feels a bit “strange” at times, as “I’ve spent the last 12 years as comfortably as I can asking other people questions rather than answering them.”
Konopasek says he “grew up in the Chicago suburbs of Northwest Indiana — Munster, Indiana. My mom has a background in journalism — she studied journalism but went into publishing — and I was interested in drama, speech and debate in high school.”
After completing the journalism program at Ball State University and an internship at WLS-TV, the legendary Chicago television network, Konopasek began climbing the television ladder. Before arriving in Denver in 2016, he worked at KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City and KING-TV in Seattle, and was also something of a roving correspondent for TEGNA, 9News’ parent company.
Along the way, Konopasek reported on two horrifying mass shootings — the 2014 attack on Marysville Pilchuck High School near Seattle that killed four people, and the 2015 attack on Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, that killed nine people came to life. And his work for Fox31 has hardly been painless. Some of the most memorable stories he has worked on include the fatal shooting of Deputy Adams County Heath Gumm in 2018, the 2019 Highlands Ranch STEM School shooting and the Boulder County Marshall fire in late 2021 and its aftermath. But these stories stand out for Konopasek for reasons beyond the tremendous losses they share. “What I feel most is the resilience that we see in communities after tragedy,” he says.
And then there was the onslaught of COVID-19, which resulted in a tremendous shift in the way Konopasek and his colleagues got their work done.
“As reporters, we’re so used to being in a newsroom together and also to being out and about in the community,” he emphasizes. “When things closed in March 2020 everything was sort of turned on its head. We started doing our editorial meetings on Zoom — I didn’t even know what Zoom was before the pandemic — and I did more interviews on Zoom than I did in person,” he recalls. “Most Americans got to know the living rooms of their local TV news reporters, because we sent in our look lives and sometimes live shots of our houses. I had to put a camera on a tripod in my living room and use my TV as a monitor. I basically turned my home into a studio. But it was amazing that we could do all of that and still come out with a quality product.”
Those experiences gave Konopasek a fresh perspective on what he calls “work-life balance,” and he’s not the only one: He’s become at least the eighth high-profile Denver television to leave TV news as of early 2021. The departures include four broadcast journals from Fox31/Channel 2 (Natalie Tysdal, Sam Boik, Matt Makens and Kevin Torres) and three from 9News (Liz Kotalik, Ryan Haarer and Becky Ditchfield).
Konopasek has nothing but positive things to say about his time at Fox31 and broadcasting in general. “I will miss meeting different people from different walks of life every day and all my colleagues over the past six years and throughout my television journey,” he admits. “But I’m looking forward to moving on to the next stage.”