It’s national sunshine week, a time to promote open government and celebrate access to public information. In the spirit of shining light on government, host Austin Jenkins sits down for the full hour with longtime KIRO 7 government and political reporter Essex Porter. Recently retired after four decades in the TV news business, we asked Essex to reflect on his career, the state of politics, and on the future of local news.
Essex was born into a military family and raised in Fort Riley, Kansas. Originally he wanted to be a scientist, perhaps a chemist. But the news bug caught him while watching coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
A degree from the University of Nebraska led him first to an Omaha TV station, where he was hired as a fresh-out-of-college reporter. From there he went to Portland, Oregon, where he covered the May 19, 1980, eruption of Mt. St. Helens from the seat of a helicopter. From Portland he went to KIRO TV in Seattle, where he reported from 1982 until his retirement in November 2021, both as a general assignment reporter and senior political reporter.
He’s interviewed every Washington governor since Dixy Lee Ray. Coming from outside the state, Essex has interesting insights into Washington government. Our state’s constitution, he notes, was written by populists who had a deep skepticism about consolidation of political power. Thus, political authority in Washington is distributed much more widely than in other states, with a plethora of boards and commissions and elected offices. One possible disadvantage of this arrangement? It makes Washington possibly slow to respond to public policy crises like homelessness.
Many more insights and stories on this special “Sunshine Week” episode of Inside Olympia.