Connie Thompson thought she’d slip away quietly when she retired last week. Her co-workers had other plans.

They celebrated the longtime KOMO personality and journalistic trailblazer with an outpouring of love and even her own career retrospective.

I have been so overwhelmed,” Thompson said. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it caught me off guard. The half-hour special totally blew me away. And I’m sitting in my living room and it looks like a florist shop at Christmastime. The doorbell rang — I’ve been expecting a delivery of something that I ordered for Christmas at the 1st of December — and it’s more flowers!”

Thompson has earned it. She spent 46 years at KOMO, the last 35 as the station’s consumer advocate. Over the years she’s helped hundreds of viewers sort out scams, get their money back and avoid dangerous situations, while teaching important lessons to hundreds of thousands of others along the way.

She’s had a similarly important impact inside the building at KOMO, where her infectious laugh and keen insight make her welcome in every room — including the editing room, where reporters aren’t often appreciated while stories are being spliced and diced. But Joe Wren, the station’s longtime video editor, always made sure Thompson was there next to him over the more than four decades they worked together.

“No editor really wants somebody in there working with them, but I never felt that with Connie,” Wren said.


He’d volunteer to work her stories, just to spend time with her “because it didn’t take long before we started laughing about something, which made it difficult to hit the deadline comfortably. We always had just enough off-color jokes with each other that once somebody says something like that, then we’d start laughing, and then she’d hit me on the shoulder: ‘No, come on, come on, come on. We gotta go do this.’ But then she started laughing at herself.”

“I would say there’s definitely a hole,” KOMO anchor Mary Nam said. “It feels that way. Can the next consumer reporter fill her shoes? Absolutely. But the memories, the relationships, all of the things that Connie brought to the table, when someone like that leaves, they take that with them. And in a business that has slowly become more of a revolving door where people come and go, people with Connie’s experience and history, they really matter.”

Thompson was not the first Black woman on local news in Seattle. She followed in the path of people like Micki Flowers at KIRO and Linda Kennedy at KING. But she was one of the very few African Americans working in local television at the time — a period she describes as local TV news’ adolescence — and may have been the first Black woman to hold a local regular weekday anchor job when she co-hosted the 11 p.m. news in the early 1980s.

“It was very rare, and we’re talking from a TV broadcasting standpoint,” Nam said. “The shift matters when you anchor. And so for her to have been Monday through Friday prime time, that was a big deal.”

Thompson was hired in 1974 after graduating from the University of Portland. She began as a trainee working in production, where she learned the fine-grain details of the TV news business. This was the pre-computer era when her stories were shot on film, and she pulled wire reports from teletype machines and typed up the show schedule on ditto paper, “which I have to explain, and I just tell people to Google and find out what that is.” She soon moved into reporting.

“When you’re talking about a trainee position in television, you’re talking about learning what you’re doing while everybody’s watching,” Thompson said. “And so I spent a lot of my time learning what I didn’t know, and I think I’ve just always approached it that way. I want to find out what I don’t know.”


That attitude helped her over the decades as journalism evolved and the station moved from family to corporate management.

“I had to learn how to be resilient and re-create myself and know that whatever I was doing as a reporter, I always wanted to tell people things I felt they could use and needed to know,” she said.

Looking back, she feels she always had a strong, supportive family of co-workers around her at the station. But she acknowledges there were times when she missed the presence of other Black employees early in her career. 

“There were a handful of people of color in different departments,” Thompson said. “But there was not that industry mentor with words of wisdom and coaching, and then the nudging and the strategizing and the kind of feedback that you could trust and open up to and go to.”

And there were definitely times she needed a shoulder to lean on. Trailblazers often find themselves alone, after all.

“I certainly had the support of the community — not just the Black and people-of-color community, but a lot of the Seattle community,” Thompson said. “I also felt some of the — we call them trolls now — the racist trolls.”


“She told me it was lonely at times,” Nam said, mentioning some racist postcards Thompson had received early in her career. “And it’s not like she could turn to the current Black male or Black female anchor next to her and say, ‘Hey, I feel this way. What do I do?’ There was no one for her to confide in or to really empathize with her. And so she definitely broke the barriers and she was one of the few.”

As the decades passed, Thompson’s role flipped and she became the veteran journalist sought out by younger co-workers for her sage knowledge and perspective. She became the kind of mentor for people of color she had searched for all those years.

Thompson said she relished that role.

“I just wanted people to feel free to come to me,” she said. “And if I could offer any assistance, I was happy to do what I could and I truly meant that, even if it was just an ear. It’s easier to succeed if you have someone that you can count on to have your back or lend an ear or answer a question that you may feel hesitant to ask because you think you should already know the answer. I try to be that way.”

She may continue to serve in that role for future journalists as part of her retirement. She’s simply not sure. With nothing but free time ahead of her and husband Don Roberts, she has no idea what’s next.

“Especially with COVID, it’s a blank slate,” Thompson said. “I’m looking forward to just decompressing and savoring the 46 years, savoring the relationships.”