Spotlight COlorado  

Have You Met?

Tony Kovaleski, Investigative Reporter for KMGH 7News in Denver, tough as nails? Professionally, you bet. Serious investigative reporting isn’t for sissies. It takes someone with Kovaleski’s strength of character to not be shaken or intimidated by the challenges involved in the investigative process. To Tony Kovaleski, nothing takes precedence over careful research and preparation. Tony knows he has a big responsibility to the public, and he makes sure he has his facts straight and has checked out his sources before he moves forward with any story.

Tony joined the 7News Investigators team in 2001, and with his hard-hitting, “on the money” reporting, he is now considered one of the best in his field. Whether it’s bringing attention to or exposing corruption, government waste, dangerous consumer products, unethical business practices and public safety failures – like his investigation into the Federal Air Marshal Service or the breakdowns in Denver’s 911system - Tony has brought about positive change.

Tony has also worked on such high profile stories as the 9-11 attacks, the Kobe Bryant trial, OJ Simpson trial, the Timothy McVeigh verdict, the 2002 Hayman Fire in Colorado, Hurricane Brett in 1999 and Hurricanes Katrina & Rita in 2005. Tony has earned his investigative stripes with his concise, accurate reporting.

The personal side of Tony is respectful of others, quick to give a compliment, fun to be around and wants to get more involved in the community. Tony says: “I would like to get more involved in the Denver community. Sometimes because of the type of reporting I do, people are afraid to make the contact because of some of the controversies investigative reporting brings. I would like the opportunity to connect with the viewers out there. Some may like what I do, some may not; I would enjoy hearing thoughts and opinions from both.”

With clear vision and foresight, Tony is his own free-thinking man and doesn’t do anything half-baked. After all, he is one of the good guys; he wants people to be accountable for their actions. Tony doesn’t believe in giving people who think they are exempt from the rules any free passes. In his way of thinking, there are too many people who “do the right thing” that end up paying a price because of the rule-breakers.

It’s comforting to know that there is someone like Tony Kovaleski out there who is genuinely working on our behalf to make justice prevail - and as he puts it: “I have the ability to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Tony's Community Involvement: Tony has done work with the Special Olympics, the Better Business Bureau (He emcee'd the BBB Torch Awards), and he participates in the KMGH Channel 7 charitable community programs like: "Coats for Colorado." Tony and his family volunteer at many programs for the Homeless in their community and at their church.

Tony, was there any hint of your investigative nature when you were a child? Looking back, when I was a kid, I was always curious about how things worked, were built, what made things tick – I had an insatiable curiosity from a young age that brought me full circle to what I do today.

How did you get involved in the kind of reporting you are doing now? It was an evolution. As a general assignment reporter, I had a News Director by the name of Susan Sullivan. She’s now the VP of News for MSNBC. She challenged the newsroom to take on projects that dug deeper than just who, what, where, and when – and I really got to the “why.” I was fortunate to be doing a story about a school superintendent who had been using district money, district employees, and district supplies to improve his 27 condos. We exposed the issue, he lost his job, and criminal charges followed. The story had tremendous impact, and the word got out. I got a job offer in Houston as a full-time Investigative Reporter there and did that for about 4 years. After that, I had opportunities in different cities. I decided that the Denver opportunity was the best option for a variety of reasons. Our News Director had a real grasp for the investigative concept and really understood what it takes to succeed. It was clear to me that he was going to provide an avenue that was going to give me the opportunity to succeed. It also gave me a chance to work with John Ferrugia who had an excellent reputation with CBS.

Is John Ferrugia the head of your investigative team? We work collaboratively and independently and manage our own investigations. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for John Ferrugia; John breaks big stories, and together, we have built a reputation as an investigative team that can bring about change.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your investigative reporting? Giving “a voice to the voiceless.” Being able to create positive long-term change. Something’s broken, and we can help to fix it.

What is the hardest part of what you do? Having to tell someone that I can’t take on their investigation - because I’m in the middle of 3 or 4 other important stories - is difficult. To some people we are their last hope, but for a variety of reasons at that moment, we can’t fix their problem. There are limitations to how much we can take on.

Can you tell us about some of your toughest (or scariest) assignments? Reporting through several hurricanes. Probably the scariest was Hurricane Rita a couple of years ago in Beaumont, Texas. The hurricane was moving through quickly, and we were outside covering it. The windows in our hotel room imploded from the pressure. It got pretty wild. I also flew into Mississippi right after Hurricane Katrina and was in New York City right after 9-11. Telling all of those stories was challenging – and difficult.

There seems to be so many “sick” individuals out there, such as pedophiles, is there any long term solutions for the dangers that these people inflict on society? I wish I had an easy solution. I do believe having Investigative Journalism in a community creates greater accountability. They say I’m a “bull dog,” I’d rather say I’m a “watch dog.” Having an investigative team like ours to call makes the community better equipped to deal with these individuals and bring about justice to the voiceless.

What do you think is the greatest problem we are facing in this country today? Apathy is a major problem. As a country, we like to complain, but yet when you look at the percentage of people who actually vote, it’s very low. We all need to get involved. Every vote counts. We live in the greatest country in the world. Is it perfect? No. We need to recognize what we do have and work as a society to bring about positive change to make where we live better.

What’s the best advice you have received from a colleague or a mentor? That’s an easy one. When I went to college and started in my journalism career, all I wanted to be was a Sportscaster. I had a professor and mentor, Ken Blasé, who pulled me aside and said: “Hey, you do a nice job and you have a great future, but most newsrooms just have a few sports guys and a whole bunch of news people, why don’t you spend a semester and try to get involved on the news side.” I ended up doing a radio investigation in college on what it’s like to shoplift and get caught. I realized that it was challenging, and I started growing in that area. When I graduated, I put out tapes for both news and sports, and my first job offer was a news job, and I’ve been doing news ever since. With Ken’s guidance and Susan Sullivan’s challenge to become an investigative reporter – those two individuals helped me get to where I am today.

What type of personality does it take to do what you do? Are you a good example of that type of personality? Yes. John Ferrugia and I are very much alike. We both wear suspenders (laugh). Both of us are not willing to accept “no.” It’s an insatiable appetite to learn, to sometimes challenge authority, to uncover the truth. We will “dog” an issue until we are absolutely sure we have the truth.

We all have days when nothing seems to come together; how do you stay motivated and moving forward on those kind of days? In many ways, my work is like that of most people, when things don’t go right in your job, it’s a challenge. I’m passionate about my work, so your strength really comes from the people who call or write you because they are turning to you for help and that kind of trust brings me motivation to say okay, no matter what, we are going to make this happen. People know you are going to do what you can to fix the problem.

If you could go back in time, and do something differently, what would it be? I try never to look back with regrets. Even with the worst decisions I’ve made, I’ve grown and learned from them.

What can we all do to make life better for future generations? Involvement and giving back. We’ve all been fortunate in some way. Take a look at what has helped you get to where you are. Everyone has a chance of giving back. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to teach some Broadcast Writing Classes. Because the “Ken Blasé’s of the world” helped give me direction, it was a way for me to give back and motivate a few people to also make the right decisions. We all must take some time to give something back that could make a difference to someone in the future.

What is your personal motto – or favorite quote? I’ve always believed in making your own opportunity, not waiting for opportunity to come to you. I like the quote: “Luck is just a time when preparation and opportunity meet.”

What do you consider your proudest achievement? I’d have to say raising my daughters. I am so proud of all three of them.

How would you sum up your life experiences so far? I’ve lived in some great cities, worked with some of the most talented people in the business and have had the opportunity to interview world leaders and witness history. I’m very happy where I am now and feel lucky and fortunate that they pay me for what I love to do.

What’s coming up in the future for Tony Kovaleski? Probably one of the interesting things about my job is I never know what I’m going to be doing. In 30 minutes I could get a phone call and an event could happen in the nation where our News Director wants to send me to a major breaking news event to again witness history. My life is anything but predictable or routine; and I like it that way.

Which one word describes you best? “Passionate.” You must be passionate about what you do. I’ve found a great place at Channel 7News that has made a commitment to Investigative Journalism; and I work for an amazing News Director with an entire news staff that is also passionate and committed to earning the respect of the viewers.

Awards & Recognitions: Tony’s work over more than two decades has been honored with numerous industry awards. His 19 Emmy Awards include recognition for writing, investigative reporting, live reporting & journalistic enterprise. In 2004 and 2006, the Colorado Broadcasters Association named Kovaleski the state’s “Best Specialty Reporter.” He has been honored several times by the Associated Press and the Radio Television News Directors Association. In 1997, he earned a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting. That same year, The Texas Associated Press named Kovaleski that state's "Reporter of the Year." Tony’s reporting and investigations have been featured on CNN, ABC's Good Morning America, ABC’s "20/20", ABC’s Primetime and CNN’s "Larry King Live." And he is a member of Investigative Reporters and editors IRE.

Some of the best stories from 7NEWS Investigates have come from viewer tips, you are encouraged to call the Denver's 7 tip line at (303) 832-0200 or send Tony or John Ferrugia an e-mail at: if you have a story idea.