Fox 40’s Lonnie Wong Retires From Sacramento TV News Channel

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Lonnie Wong prepares to send his snow survey report to Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada on Dec. 30, 2020. Long announced his retirement on Sept. 1, 2021, after a 40-year career with Fox KTXL in Sacramento.

Forty-one years, six months, 28 days.

KTXL Fox 40’s Lonnie Wong is retiring after nearly 42 years at the Sacramento television news station and a journalism career spanning nearly 50 years.

In an on-air dispatch last week on Wong’s last day, fellow Fox 40 news anchors Nikki Laurenzo and Eric Harryman praised his decades of service in Northern California news.

“He’s been an integral part of the Fox 40 family, obviously, for four decades,” Harryman said.

The veteran reporter has covered stories that have shaped local and national history, from an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford to the trial of Theodore Kaczynski, better known as The Unabomber, and even the first basketball game of the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena in 1985, according to Fox 40.

Last year, Wong was inducted into the Silver Circle by the Northern California chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – the organization responsible for awarding Emmys to television industry professionals – for his overall accomplishments in broadcast news and his contribution to the community. .

Last year, the Sacramento Press Club named a fellowship after Wong in honor of his many years of service in the local news. But his work in the community has not been exclusive to the newsroom. He co-founded the Sacramento Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and served on its board of directors since its inception, and also helped found the Sacramento Sino-American Council.

In 2016, the local AAJA chapter hailed Wong as “unsung hero in the community” and praised its commitment to “ethics, accuracy and fair representation of all communities”.

Wong told The Sacramento Bee that being in the public eye as a TV reporter meant he had the opportunity to “give a bigger voice” to the Asian American community, who took notice. as it became a Sacramento staple in an area that has been historically lacking in diversity. He said being able to watch the student journalists he mentored by AAJA go on to work in major networks “has been gratifying.”

The Sacramento native, who attended CK McClatchy High School and Sacramento City College, began his journalism career while studying English at the University of California, Davis.

He was a journalist at KDVS, the university’s student radio station, a job that would launch a career he never really intended to start.

“I just ran into guys who were interested in radio news,” Wong said. At the time, the Watergate scandal was unfolding in Washington, and journalists seemed like heroes, exposing corruption at the highest levels of government.

This lofty ideal was appealing, but Wong said the real appeal of journalism was pure enjoyment. He was one of the few reporters at the time to cover Davis City Council meetings and became a source of information in the community, even as a student reporter.

He transitioned to political coverage at the California State Capitol for Bay Area radio stations while Ronald Reagan was still in office as governor. He also worked as a freelance journalist for news networks and news stations in Los Angeles and San Diego before being hired in Sacramento.

He joined KTXL in 1980, a time before the station’s Fox network affiliation, when the channel was known simply as TV-40. Over the years, Wong has covered seven California governors — including Jerry Brown’s two incumbents — from Reagan to current Governor Gavin Newsom.

Working at KTXL, he suddenly found himself in front of a camera for the first time.

“It was very different,” Wong said. “You just had to learn on the fly.”

After covering national stories for major networks, he also had to adapt to the type of coverage you might expect from a local news station.

“All of a sudden I was covering the birth of a tiger cub at the zoo,” he said.

But he also worked on great stories. The 1994 Northridge earthquake stands out as a particularly important story – so important, in fact, that Wong said it was “too important for television”. He remembers walking through the wreckage for miles and witnessing untold devastation that would never be aired.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg appeared in the on-air segment of Fox 40 announcing Wong’s retirement to pay tribute to his work as a community journalist. Wong has covered Steinberg since his first stint in Sacramento City Hall in the 1990s, when he was the city’s District 6 representative.

“I think the greatest compliment an elected official can give a reporter is not that he was nice – although Lonnie was always nice – but that he was always thorough and fair,” Steinberg said. at Fox 40. “It’s Lonnie Wong’s reputation, and it’s deserved.

Wong said his guiding principle in covering Sacramento news was to stay objective and let viewers decide for themselves how they feel about a story. It’s a tall order when TV reporters don’t have long to pitch their news segments to viewers at home.

“You present the things you’ve put together but you let the viewers decide,” Wong said.

In an industry where high churn is the norm, Wong stayed in Sacramento primarily so he wouldn’t have to drag his family across the country — a common inconvenience for on-air talent.

“My family has always been here,” he says.

As a result, people in the town have become familiar with him and recognize him in public as often as a few times a week.

Wong, speaking live from the Fox 40 studio on his last day, recalled his long career in journalism as a “fun ride” that gradually turned into something bigger.

“You can get behind the yellow tape, talk to celebrities and it was fun,” he said on air. “The longer you do it, the more all the other things happen: connecting with the community, covering big stories that matter to a lot of people, changing the way things are done.”

All told, Wong estimated on-air that he’d filed 10,000 stories during his Fox 40 career — “which is a lot,” he said.

At the end of the station’s segment honoring Wong, anchor Nikki Laurenzo presented Wong with a plaque, naming the station’s newsroom in her honor.

Wong said he has no intention of working in retirement and plans to travel and enjoy his hobbies. He said he would have retired earlier, but the coronavirus pandemic canceled his travel plans last year. Now that his career is winding down, Wong said he was honored to have recorded so much of the region’s history.

“What happened 30 years ago and 40 years ago is in the history books,” he said. “I was able to witness so many things, good and bad.”

Vincent Moleski covers breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and once wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.