Reno is a job-jumper’s market in broadcast journalism—people come here, get a couple of years of experience, and then move on to a larger market. Brandon Rittiman did not do that. He came to Reno to put down roots. Last year, he moved from commercial television to public radio, becoming news director at KUNR. He values thoughtful reporting and says public radio allows him to do more of it.
Where are you from?
I’m from San Jose, California, originally. … I left a job working as reporter and anchor for the NBC station in Laredo, Texas, and I had gotten hired as a reporter at KTVN, Channel 2.
You’ve jumped now from commercial television to public radio. How is it different?
Well, the key difference is that it frees me up to have more time to work on in-depth stories. Since I’ve been here at KUNR, I’ve had the opportunity to do several feature-length news stories. Still on hard news topics, but I’ve had the time to go out and really get a sense of the people that are affected by the story and allow it to really breathe and be more understandable. Whereas in commercial TV, it was very much about, “Here’s what we have to do to get a lead story on for the 5 o’clock news every day.” It was very quick turnaround, not as much time to go into things.
Why is that important?
Well, it’s important because, frankly, you can’t tell stories the way they ought to be told in a day, sometimes. There’s a place for breaking news and it’s important to be on top of that. I’m not saying that. But there are many stories where you’re not going to get a sense of the real human impact by just going out in one day and trying to find the person. It’s almost impossible to find the person that’s affected by a budget cut to a government program, for example, if you’re just trying to get the story turned around in an hour or two. That’s the kind of thing that takes phone calls, research and time to line up. … On the quick turnaround stories we hear a lot about the detail about what’s going to happen but we don’t hear the human side of it. I think that’s just the most under-covered thing in news right now, is what’s happening to the people. What’s the people impact of some of these decisions that are made, especially in a time when we’re talking about cuts to government services?
How do you feel about going from television to radio?
To be honest? People ask me all the time, “Oh, do you miss being on TV?” I don’t miss being on TV. It’s fun to work with video and tell a good visual story using that medium. I arrived at TV not wanting to be on TV. I just liked working with video. So I feel good working with moving pictures and sound. However, working with sound and not having to focus on the visual has opened my eyes to a world where I can focus on the substance of the story a lot more than the style and look of the story. …
How do you like covering the legislature?
I’d rather be down there every day of the session or not be down there at all. It’s a difficult branch of the government to understand and it’s more important than most people realize. And so being down there on a frequent basis allows you to really connect with the lawmakers, understand the process a lot more, and be in the position to explain this stuff to the public a lot better when things happen.
Do you expect to stay in this area?
I know that Reno has a reputation as sort of a starter market or stepping stone kind of market, particularly for journalists. … I came here because I have a life-long connection to Lake Tahoe and I’d been trying to get a job in Reno for a while when I did get the job at Channel 2. I was happy to move here and I fell in love, married my wife Elizabeth and this is where we want to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.