Ode to Lisa Lyden 

Between the Lines

Usually we hear news stories, think briefly about how they'll affect us or not, then move on with our everyday lives.

Occasionally, though, a headline or announcement stops us cold. So it was last Friday evening, when word came that Lisa Lyden would be leaving as Channel 5 news anchor in late July.

People come and go all the time in TV news. There's no way to know exactly how many reporters and wannabe anchors have passed through or lingered in the Colorado Springs-Pueblo market during the past three decades. Some were destined for bigger cities or even networks. Others simply didn't fit in the anchor spot, or not for long.

Lisa Lyden has outlasted them all. During the early 1980s, Lyden came out of Western State College and soon landed here at KOAA, the local NBC affiliate. By July 1983, she had become a Channel 5 news anchor.

She has remained there ever since, delivering 29 years of consistency in a profession where that word often is ignored. Her professional partnership with fellow anchor Rob Quirk, solid as a rock since 1989, has kept Channel 5 entrenched atop the local ratings.

They're still No. 1, which makes her departure a little harder to explain. Despite management changes at the station, there was no reason to doubt that Lisa and Rob would continue to reign over this market for as long as they wanted — another decade, if not longer.

Perhaps that's what the viewers wish, but most folks on the receiving end have no idea how demanding the daily media grind can be. Your days are long, stretching well into the night, month after month, year after year. At some point, after reaching your 50s, you start to wonder if your best years are slipping away.

This comes from someone who knows firsthand. After many years in daily newspapers, and way too few quality vacations, I had all of those thoughts — and regrets about lost family time. Those work memories are exhilarating, but they don't add up to a completely rewarding life.

Certainly, Lyden never craved the spotlight, which was obvious every time we've talked. She didn't hob-nob with the political or social crowds. In fact, she's been able to stay neutral in reporting the news, taking care to avoid any sign that she might lean either way. She also has kept her private life (such as it was, given her schedule) separate from her work.

We know she can sing, from that unscripted night in 2007 when singer Michael Martin Murphey joined her and Quirk on set. He started to play his hit "Wildfire," asked Lisa to join him, and she made it sound like a well-rehearsed duet. We also know she's helped many charitable causes and made breast-cancer awareness a priority, turning her own mammogram into a story.

But something seemed to change back in February when longtime KOAA sports director Lee Douglas died suddenly of an undetected kidney ailment. You had to wonder how that affected the others on Channel 5's close-knit foursome including Lyden, Quirk and meteorologist Mike Daniels.

There was no dropoff on the newscasts, with Lyden and Quirk maintaining the same chemistry. They were grieving about Douglas, but so were the viewers, and everyone shared those feelings together. It spoke volumes about what that news team had built with the audience through the years.

At some point, Lyden probably realized it was OK to leave while she was still No. 1. Another longtime co-worker, morning anchor Georgiann Lymberopoulos, departed in late 2011 after 17 years to raise her children. The new morning anchor, Jennifer Horbelt, instantly made a strong impression and already has been identified now as Lyden's replacement.

Replacing Lisa Lyden, though, involves far more than just being excellent at reporting the news. KOAA, and this entire market, aren't simply losing a successful news anchor. Lyden has provided stability, sincerity and a positive outlook on life, making her like a member of everyone's family.

You can't fake those attributes. You have to embrace them, every day and night, never letting your guard down.

Lisa Lyden has done that better than anybody. She's helped make this a better place to live. And to say we'll miss her, well, it's far more than that.

All we can do, Lisa, is wish you the best. You richly deserve it.


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