During more than three decades leading the broadcasting company, Ken Hatch added innovations, such as TV news helicopters and traffic vans, and he became familiar to viewers by appearing on-air, thousands of times, to read editorials.
Former KIRO broadcasting president Ken Hatch, who helped transform local TV news from behind the scenes and appeared on-air to read editorials, died Tuesday. He was 82.
His wife of 22 years, Cathi Hatch, said Mr. Hatch felt dizzy in their Bellevue home and was taken to a hospital, where he suffered cardiac arrest. Doctors were unable to revive him.
Mr. Hatch came to KIRO in 1964 and remained there for about 35 years, starting as general manager for the TV station and ultimately leading a broader broadcasting operation that included TV and radio stations and other services.
At KIRO, Mr. Hatch made many changes that are hallmarks of broadcasting today but were revolutionary at the time, according to former TV executive Glenn Wright, his longtime friend and colleague.
Mr. Hatch acquired a helicopter for the station to get to news quickly. He put news vans on the streets, and even boats on the water to collect local traffic reports. He took anchors away from their desk and had them do stand-up shots to seem less stiff. And he added guests to argue over key issues.
“They basically had a liberal and a conservative and they’d go at it. That wasn’t done” at the time, Wright said.
While most of his work was out of sight, viewers might have known him best for replacing Lloyd Cooney, who left to run for U.S. Senate in 1980, as the on-air representative to read staff editorials. Although he was on air for more than a decade, Wright said, Mr. Hatch actually hated doing that — though he read more than 10,000 of them — and was more comfortable behind the camera.
Mr. Hatch also expanded local programming, covering high-school sports and launching local shows focusing on niches like automotives, cooking, and home and garden.
Mr. Hatch was born on a small cattle ranch in Utah, near the Colorado border. His parents had little education, and he did not start attending school until age 8.
He ultimately got a full scholarship to the University of Utah. Following a stint in the Army, he became general manager of the KSL-TV station in Salt Lake City when he was in his 20s, a rare position for someone that age, Cathi Hatch said. Utah-based Bonneville International, which owns KSL, transferred him to Seattle when it bought KIRO.
“He grew up working very hard and didn’t realize life could be any other way,” Cathi said.
He also attracted some controversy. In 1992, a former Miss Alabama sued KIRO, claiming she was sexually harassed by Mr. Hatch while working as a consultant for the station. KIRO ultimately settled for $160,000. Mr. Hatch, who was going through his second divorce at the time, said the settlement was just a business decision to avoid costly litigation “even though I am confident that I would have been vindicated in court.”
After leaving KIRO, he spent the past two decades running Hatch Enterprises, where he offered business and communication consulting. He also did some angel investing.
He was known for his positivity and generosity, both in terms of charitable giving and mentorship.
And he was nothing if not persistent.
“He asked me to marry him over 100 times before I said yes,” Cathi Hatch said. “That was part of his charm. He was very persistent, and kept going until he finally got what he wanted.”
Cathi Hatch said his death was unexpected, though he had had a triple bypass about a decade ago.
“It’s really hard; everyone is struggling with this,” she said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hatch leaves behind four children, Sean, Ryan, Michael and Elizabeth Anne, and two stepchildren, Justin Badger and Katy Laramore. He had six grandchildren and seven step-grandkids. He and his wife also had two dogs they considered their kids, Hachi and Zizi.
Mr. Hatch and his wife have devoted the past few years to building a 2,000 seat performing arts center in Bellevue. People can donate in his honor to the Kenneth Hatch Memorial Fund at Tateuchi Center, P.O. Box 828, Bellevue, WA 98009.
Services will be in early December.