Game over for sports anchor

Staff writer

Katrina Hancock was onboard for the rollercoaster season with the Detroit Tigers until the coaster was grounded in a World Series Sweep to San Francisco on Oct. 29.

Hancock covered championship hockey with the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup title in 2008. There were championship runners-up with Michigan State in 2010, the Red Wings in 2009, and the Pistons in 2007.

She interviewed many athletes and coaches. The most difficult of those to conduct were for the 0-16 Lions season in 2008. She found herself asking the same questions every week to a growingly embattled group of players.

The catalog of experiences Hancock earned as a sportscaster at WDIV-TV would overflow from a hardbound scrapbook. Her favorite memory? Not what the average viewer might expect.

Hancock organized two community cleanup events this past year in neighborhoods where most reporters would not venture, she said. Detroit’s inner city has the reputation as one of the grimiest locations in North America.

Hancock said reputation does not tell the story. The drugs, the gun battles, and the abandoned homes people are begging government leaders to knock down are real. The hardworking people — who have lived in those neighborhoods for 20 or 30 years — are real, too. The acts of mowing some grass, picking up some trash, and, yes, demolishing some unsightly properties made a community impact Hancock could see, hear, and feel. It proved that her status as a television personality could mean something.

“I saw the power of the media and what it can do,” she said.

Hancock’s second favorite moment in Detroit? She volunteered at an all-girls organization for underprivileged youth called Vista Maria.

What Katrina Hancock wanted to do — stories about community — and what she actually did — stories about overpaid professional athletes — did not match. Hancock grew up in Marion, where people stop on the side of the road to assist a traveler with car trouble. She saw that type community involvement in Detroit, but she did not get an opportunity to explore it.

With her work priorities out of balance, the grind of television news became more difficult. Including stops in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Topeka, and Toledo, Ohio, she has not had more than a few days off in a row in about 12 years. She worked just about every weekend from 2:30 to 11:30 p.m.

“Everybody thinks it’s such a glamorous life,” she said. “It’s very demanding.”

There is a price to pay for that life. Transported into people’s homes, viewers felt like they knew Hancock. She said people often approached her in stores to ask about her hair. Her appearance was important for her career. She said there was pressure to maintain her statuesque beauty.

All of these factors were playing on a slow loop in her mind in August. Her contract was up at the end of the year, and she was not sure she wanted to stay. She had many friends after more than six years at the station. She still loved reporting. She still loved the community.

Then there was a last-straw moment.

Hancock put together a news story about the State of Michigan contributing $10 million to Detroit to clean up neighborhoods. She remembered those residents begging for help; they had just received a big helping hand. On top of that news, there also was a proposal to place many government services in local schools.

“It was a double bonus,” she said.

Hancock interviewed Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing on camera for the story. But, producers eliminated the story from the broadcast because she did not get any local color — a requirement she was not aware of.

To Hancock, that action said her bosses were more concerned about exercising power over content than producing a quality newscast. It was compounded by other times when she brought ideas to news meetings that were ignored.

“When the production doesn’t matter, I don’t need to be there anymore,” she said.

So, Hancock walked away at the end of her contract. She walked after WDIV offered her a pay increase to stay.

“They could have thrown $500,000 at me,” she said. “When you’re fed up with something, you’re fed up.”

With Christmas and New Year’s holidays to herself for the first time in 12 years, she went on 4,000-mile road trip with her mom, Anita. They visited one of Hancock’s best friends in Dallas, a relative she had never met in San Antonio, and other relatives in Phoenix. She is happy to hang out with seven young cousins — all younger than 13 — living in the Marion County area.

She is looking for jobs but now has the luxury to be picky. She has looked at a couple jobs outside of the TV world, but she is still keeping an eye out for the right mixture — a newsroom that produces a quality newscast that will allow her to the stories she wants to do.

“I want to do something different,” Hancock said. “I think my days of doing sports are over.”

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