Longtime Denver journalist and Evergreen resident Alan Gionet made the transition earlier this year from news anchor at CBS4 to once again follow his passion as a full-time reporter. “I always reported, even as an anchor. I believe reporting is the core of the business. I like nothing better than interviewing and writing the story, meeting and talking to people and being at events. I can’t do that from a studio,” he said.
Alan explained that he has longed to get back to reporting for some time, and the station finally relented. He added that he won’t miss getting up at 2 am, which he’s done for the past 10 years as morning news anchor. He has always applied his knowledge as a reporter to all aspects of his work, even as anchor, and he is very glad to be out meeting people and telling their stories again. “I’ve enjoyed the recent conversations I’ve had with people, seeing them with my own eyes. I look forward to it every day. You can, as a reporter, have control over the quality of your work. I never dumb down what I do. I don’t think things should be dumbed down. I simply try to distill complex information,” he said. He points to the Good Question series he’s done for many years that allowed him to talk to experts in many different areas, most recently to learn more about the pandemic.
Alan grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and began his career at a high school/college radio station. He then got a job at a commercial station that included a half-hour program interviewing musicians. Arlo Guthrie, a resident of the area, was one of those early interviews. “I fancied myself an interviewer, like Dick Cavett and Phil Donahue,” Alan said.
His kitchen table was stacked high with newspapers and his favorite publication, The Washington Post Magazine. When it came time to declare a major at Emerson College in Boston, his advisor sent him to the journalism department, and that was it. After graduation, he went straight to work. While he has some regrets over not doing an internship first, he found great value in that early work experience. He started at a tiny TV station in Tupelo, Mississippi, and quickly discovered that many things were a lot different than what he had known growing up in the Northeast. He got to know one of the best foreign policy minds in the country in the rural deep south. “He knew all about international trade. He was fun to talk to,” he said.
Alan found the stories of race in Mississippi to be eye-opening. For example, on City Hall, the signs for the “White” and “Colored” drinking fountains were only lightly painted over and still visible. “That summed up a lot. I covered stories there that really taught me things.” He met many people who were part of history, including several who were there in 1962 when James Meredith became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi.
He described his job in Tupelo as a “one-man band.” In addition to being the reporter, he was his own photographer. “I carried a big, heavy camera, and a big, heavy deck the size of a small suitcase,” he said. He was also the news anchor and did the weather for the only weekend newscast.
He covered what became a national story when members of a local church congregation confronted the pastor they were ousting. When the pastor arrived, he grabbed a gun and began shooting. Everyone scattered, but Alan was still filming. Alan explained,“You can see in the video that he points the gun directly at me and it looks like he misfires. I tried to run behind a pickup, with the camera and deck. The cable was too short, and kept yanking the camera. Fortunately, he was no better a shot than he was a preacher. He hit no one. I contacted the network and put the video on a bus for Atlanta, the nearest satellite uplink. It didn’t get there for over a day. Ultimately, the case went to court and I was called to testify. The church and the preacher came to an agreement and he went back as pastor.”
That story led to a job in Michigan, where he did a fair amount of investigative work and learned about middle America. His coverage of a worker safety incident contributed to an auto parts company receiving the largest fine in Michigan OSHA history at the time. In another story, he helped prove a foster family was keeping children in unsanitary conditions. After 5 1⁄2 years in Michigan, Alan went back to the Northeast as an investigative reporter in Providence, where he covered the mob and the “infamously corrupt Mayor.”
Alan’s next stop was Denver, which turned out to be a great fit and, he says, Denver was and remains one of the best TV news markets. He lived in Five Points, eventually met his wife, Kim DeVigil, and they bought their first home in Evergreen. Two years later, Alan was offered a higher paying position in Florida, and they made the move. He covered the crazy “hanging chads” election in 2000 and also reported on the devastated population of right whales, and NOAA’s program to save them.
About eight years later, both Alan and Kim had good job offers in Denver. Their four girls were getting older and they were all happy to return to Evergreen. Alan rejoined CBS4 in 2006 and has been there ever since.
Now, as a full-time reporter, he is back to doing his favorite job—telling stories and talking to the people impacted and most knowledgeable about what is happening. Recently, he spoke to restaurant owners and reported on the fate of the industry in the era of COVID-19, and he met with firefighters at the Grizzly Creek fire.
Like many families, all their kids were back home for a time during the pandemic. In late July during a family camping trip north of Vail, Alan and daughters, Camille and Clarissa, were setting up their campsite when a tree fell on a woman at the site next to them. All three tried to help. Camille, who has had some nursing training, stayed at the woman’s side for over an hour as first responders made their way to the remote area. The woman, a beloved teacher from Aurora, did not survive. “It was a tragedy that affected us in the realization of how life can end so suddenly,” said Alan. “We believe we did all we could, so have no regrets in that way, but the more we learn about this wonderful woman, the more we wish the outcome could somehow have been different. She was a teacher like my parents and was loved by several generations of students.”
Alan serves as the president of Active 4 All Evergreen, a local nonprofit and charitable partner of Evergreen Park & Recreation District. A4A puts on the annual Evergreen Lake Plunge to benefit the improvement of EPRD’s recreational opportunities for all members of the Evergreen mountain community by creating access for individuals with disabilities through the Inspire Program. This program is especially meaningful to Alan. As someone who makes full use of the area’s trails and facilities daily himself, and who has a brother with severe autism, he understands the importance of these opportunities for everyone. He has been the MC of the Plunge from its inception and became president of A4A to help ensure that the event continues for years to come. After it was cancelled two years ago due to issues at Evergreen Lake, the board moved the event to the Buchanan Ponds. It was so successful, they hope to keep it there. If you would like to help, the organization is always looking for volunteers. Learn more at A4AEvergreen.org.