KSN’s Leon Smitherman announces retirement


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Leon Smitherman announced on Thursday that he has decided to retire after three decades in the broadcast industry.

“After a great deal of soul-searching and long conversations with my family and soon-to-be wife, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to begin the next chapter of my life. But before I start that new chapter I have to wrap up this one. So, I have decided it’s time for me to retire,” said Smitherman.

Leon made the announcement on Kansas Today along with anchor Katie Taube.

“I love this job, this station and the people I work with. The Kansas Today team is like a family to me,” said Smitherman. “This is not an easy decision, but it is the right decision, for me, my family and frankly for my own health.”

“KSN and it’s management have been very understanding and supportive through this whole process. They’ve always allowed me to put my family and my health first and this is no exception,” said Smitherman.

Leon joined the KSN family in 2003 as a meteorologist and reporter, but he’s been in the broadcast industry for 30 years. He’s served as a meteorologist in markets across the country including Monroe, LA, Spokane, WA, San Diego, CA and Raleigh, NC. During his career he’s covered many major storms in Kansas and across the country, including Hurricanes Floyd and Dennis.

“Leon has a distinguished career of serving Kansas as an accomplished meteorologist and reporter,” said Steve South, Vice President & General Manager. “We wish him the best as he now focuses on his family and enjoys his well-deserved retirement.”

“We’ve been honored to work with Leon over the past 15 years, as he’s spent nearly half of his career with the KSN family,” said Rachel Schrag Sommerfeld, News Director. “We’ll certainly miss his sense of humor around the newsroom, but we celebrate with him as he’ll be able to enjoy retirement with his family.”

Leon will continue with his duties as morning meteorologist, as KSN searches for his replacement. His last day with the station has not been announced.

KSN General Manager Steve South released the following press release Thursday morning:

Leon – Thank You for your years of service to KSN and to Kansas!

WICHITA, Kansas (January 4, 2018) – KSNW-TV, the NBC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group, Inc. serving the Wichita, KS market (DMA #67), is announcing a reorganization in the newsroom, including the retirement of long-time member of the KSN family and an expansion of its statewide political reporting.

Meteorologist Leon Smitherman recently notified the station that after a distinguished career of serving Kansas, and 30 years in broadcasting, he has decided to retire. Smitherman has been with KSN for nearly 15 years, the last decade as morning meteorologist for Kansas Today.

“I love this job, this station and the people I work with. The Kansas Today team is like a family to me. This is not an easy decision, but after long conversations with my family and soon-to-be wife, I have decided that retirement is the right decision for me, my family and my own health,” said Smitherman. “The management at KSN has been very understanding and supportive through this whole process. They’ve always allowed me to put my family and my health first and this is no exception.”

Smitherman has offered to continue with his duties while the station searches for his replacement.

KSN previously announced Mark Davidson’s decision to pursue business endeavors outside of broadcasting, creating an anchor opening for the Kansas Today team. Darren Dedo, who has helped to lead the KSN evening shows for the past four years, will bring his valuable experience and strong news judgement to mornings, alongside co-anchor Katie Taube. He will also continue to tell the stories of the unsung heroes in our community, through his “Hometown Hero” series and additional reporting.

Stephanie Bergmann, a 28-year KSN veteran will transition into a new role that will allow her to bring her strong experience, creative storytelling and vital leadership to the newsroom during the day. She will anchor the noon show while taking on more editorial and managerial decisions, while continuing to tell the stories of Kansans, through investigative and human-interest stories, such as the “Main Street Kansas” series.

Earlier in the year, it was announced that Jeff Herndon was returning from Chicago to come home to Wichita as Assistant News Director and evening anchor. He joins fellow WSU grad Lisa Teachman who returned to Wichita from Kansas City to serve as KSN’s Chief Meteorologist. Lisa interned at KSN in high school and college under Dave Freeman, who retired in May of 2017.  Both bring large-market experience and an intimate understanding of the local Wichita community to help KSN’s commitment to cross-platform weather coverage and storytelling. They will continue to lead the evening newscasts on KSN while the station continues to build a strong team of journalists.

Through the support of Nexstar Media Group, Inc., KSN also recently opened a State Capital Bureau in Topeka to focus on legislative and in-depth coverage of state government issues. In partnership with its sister stations KSNT in Topeka and KSNF in Joplin/Pittsburg, two full time, year-round employees will provide consistent coverage to each of the 97 Kansas counties that are covered by the combined broadcast signals of the three stations.

“I’m honored to work with such a talented and experienced team at KSN,” said Rachel Schrag Sommerfeld, News Director. “As we continue to expand our news operations, we have a team that is committed to serving the community and telling the stories of Kansans every day.”

“We are confident we have the talent in our newsroom to serve our community at the highest standard,” said Steve South, Vice President & General Manager. “We also have additional resources provided through Nexstar ownership with a commitment to win, and over 170 stations in 100 markets.”

“We will have the unique high-profile opportunity to showcase our station during February with Super Bowl Sunday on February 4 immediately followed by the Winter Olympics February 9 – 25th.  Our 2018 Olympic coverage will include 16 Nights of local evening specials led by our talented team,” said South. “Additionally, our corporate owner Nexstar will be providing us customized local updates with reporters at both the Super Bowl and Olympics.  This type of expanded coverage is evident every day as Nexstar also provides us with a Washington D.C. bureau and the Topeka State Capitol bureau.”

A date for Smitherman’s retirement has not been announced. The additional schedule changes will be implemented by January 8.About Nexstar Media Group, Inc.Nexstar Media Group is a leading diversified media company that leverages localism to bring new services and value to consumers and advertisers through its traditional media, digital and mobile media platforms. Nexstar owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 170 television stations and related digital multicast signals reaching 100 markets or approximately 39% of all U.S. television households. Nexstar’s portfolio includes primary affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, MyNetworkTV and The CW. Nexstar’s community portal websites offer additional hyper-local content and verticals for consumers and advertisers, allowing audiences to choose where, when and how they access content while creating new revenue opportunities. For more information please visit www.nexstar.tv.

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