GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Newscast producers really are the unsung heroes in any newsroom. It’s their job to stay on top of developing stories, know what’s important to our viewers, and design shows that include both of those things. (They also write copy, communicate with crews in the field, add visual elements and break-out stories to give context to our reporting, lead the editorial process, and work with directors to execute their shows.)
Executive Producer Denise Pritchard has been doing that at 13 On Your Side for over 25 years.
Denise came to WZZM straight out of college and was hired as a news editor, though she quickly earned herself a job producing newscasts.
She started on the Noon News and worked her way into the position of Special Projects Producer.
In that role, she produced a series of On the Road newscasts in cities throughout West Michigan, getting our anchors and reporters out of the studio and where the news happens, often calling attention to communities that were overlooked or underserved by traditional news coverage. Denise field produced WZZM’s coverage of the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford. “For Betty, too,” said Denise. “It really was a privilege.”
Denise also had a hand in several large projects over the years. She produced content for a long-term commitment to Healing the Racial Divide, an effort to get the community talking about issues of race and ethnicity.
She produced many specials for our 13 Friends for Life breast cancer project. She helped create a science education curriculum for local schools with meteorologist George Lessens.
Lessens on Science earned Denise one of two Emmy Awards from the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences. The second was for newscast producing.
When the station was launching a first-in-the-market lifestyle show, Denise was a natural fit to produce it. She led that team for nearly two decades, as the show evolved from Take Five (at 4:30) to Take Five & Company to My West Michigan.
When the show went on hiatus because of the pandemic, Denise was moved to a position where she could utilize her talents to impact our evening newscasts and mentor new producers who were just starting their careers. As expected, she made a measurable impact on the quality of our on-air products and the skill of our producing team.
Denise says, while it’s been lots of fun, her days in news are done.
She’s looking for something new. Her colleagues will surely miss her leadership and the sense of fun she brought to the job each day. “Working in a newsroom can be intense. There are constant deadlines,” said fellow executive producer Chris Fleszar. “Denise always knows how to diffuse a stressful situation with a funny comment or joke. There’s been a lot of laughter over the years. We’re going to miss her a lot.”
Earlier this week longtime anchor and health reporter Valerie Lego also announced her decision to leave 13 On Your Side.
Valerie and Denise's last day at the station is Friday, January 20th.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.