After nearly four decades, Denver broadcasting veteran Ron Zappolo, acknowledged dean of local sports journalism, respected anchor and self-described "old-school" news guy, will retire from Fox31 on April 5. He's walking away from the job in order to "reinvent myself one more time."
For years, Zappolo has ranked at the top of the Denver market's "Q scores," those measurements of personality used in contract and salary negotiations that usually pit him against 9News' Adele Arakawa as the town's most positively recognized anchor.
He got there by sheer force of will and a knack for performing. His distinctive cadence —partly a holdover from his native Boston — makes him easy to listen to; his passion translates as down-to-earth; his engagement with the camera marks him as a guy who belongs on the tube.
"You have to perform the material. You have to sell it," he said.
If Ed Sardellais remembered as the capital-J journalist of Denver TV anchors, and Bob Palmer was the folksy Denver native who was a comfortable anchor choice for decades, Zappolo is the king of sports who mastered the game at channels 4 and 9 before (nervously) leaping into Fox31's news anchor chair.
On the way out, he sounds more resolved than thrilled. "I've been charging hard, and I'm in my 60s. I'm the old guy. It's the passing of the torch."
"He never did anything halfway," said 9News anchor Arakawa, an admirer. "Viewers never knew that everything he did on air (as a sports anchor at KUSA) was without a TelePrompter. I was amazed at his ability to put together a cohesive sportscast without a script in front of him." She chalks it up to "his steel-trap mind."
Zappolo's commitment was tested — and proven — last summer, when he spent 11 consecutive hours on the air after the Aurora theater shootings.
"That's what they pay you for, not to read the TelePrompter," he says.
KDVR news boss Ed Kosowski said Zappolo gained the trust of the audience over the years because "they look to him to be the voice of reason."