After 2 years away, former KVUE news boss returning to Austin

Frank Volpicella

Frank Volpicella, KVUE’s news director for 16 years before departing in 2016, is returning home.

Volpicella, who served as managing editor at WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., and news director at WGCL in Atlanta since leaving Austin, is set to become the next general manager of Community Impact’s Cedar Park-Leander edition.

“After two and a half years of being away from the best city in the country, I’m returning in mid-October,” Volpicella said. “I am thrilled to be able to return home and be close to family and friends. Our son and daughter-in-law live in Dallas, and my wife and I couldn’t stand being so far away from them. I am also excited to be able to serve the community I love once again.”

Volpicella was one of several high-profile KVUE staffers who left the station when its owner, Tegna, offered voluntary buyouts two years ago. Others included chief meteorologist Mark Murray.

Volpicella says he’s excited about what’s ahead. He partnered with Community Impact on several occasions while at KVUE, and is well acquainted with the publication’s founder, John Garrett.

“I am leaving TV news after a long career in broadcast journalism to now work for a company and a publication that I admire and respect,” he said. “The company leaders share the same vision I have, of serving our communities with quality journalism in order to make our communities a better place to live. I spent 16 years in the Cedar Park-Leander area, making friends and developing business partners. I hope to renew those friendships when I return this fall.

“On a personal note, I look forward to seeing a Texas sunset again over Lake Travis and to eating the best barbecue and Tex-Mex anywhere. But most of all I look forward to being close to family and to renew the friendships that I made during my 16 years here.”

Former KVUE news director lands Atlanta gig

Frank Volpicella
Frank Volpicella

When Frank Volpicella stepped down as KVUE’s news director in late April, he said he planned to stay retired “for about 10 minutes.”

He wasn’t far off.

Volpicella, who took a voluntary early retirement package after nearly 16 years at the city’s ABC affiliate, has been named news director at WGCL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta.

A number of other KVUE employees also took the buyouts, including chief meteorologist Mark Murray, a 26-year veteran.

At WGCL, Volpicella will be working alongside a longtime friend and mentor, general manager Mark Pimentel. The two previously worked together at WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Ala., and at WSB-TV, Atlanta’s ABC affiliate.

Atlanta is the nation’s ninth-largest TV market. Austin ranks 39th.

“I am excited to be back in Atlanta, a city I called home for 10 years earlier in my career,” Volpicella said. “I will be working for a general manager who I’ve known for 28 years. We share the same news philosophy and have the same vision on how to run a news operation.

“When I left KVUE on April 22, I realized that being a news director is in my DNA, and that I had to lead a news department again. I’m blessed to now have that opportunity to lead a station in a top-10 market.”

Volpicella begins work July 11, but is in Atlanta this week meeting with WGCL staffers.

“I will miss Austin tremendously,” he said. “But the friendships I made there will last a lifetime. There will always be a special place in my heart for Austin. I’m not saying goodbye to the city. I’ll be back to visit, and possibly retire there when that day finally comes.”

KVUE news director leaving after 16 years

Frank Volpicella
Frank Volpicella

Frank Volpicella, who has led KVUE’s news team for almost 16 years, will depart the city’s ABC affiliate later this month.

The TV news veteran has taken an early retirement package offered by Tegna, the station’s owner. Several other staffers in a number of departments were also offered voluntary buyouts, which are based upon age and years of experience, and are expected to begin announcing their departure dates soon.

“It was a difficult decision,” Volpicella said. “I love KVUE. I love the staff. It’s been quite an emotional time.”

Volpicella said he’s not sure what’s next, although he said he hopes to remain in the Austin area – either staying in journalism or working in another field.

“I plan on being retired for about 10 minutes,” he said. “I’ve been working since I was 16 and I’ve never been without a job. Even when I changed jobs, I always left on a Friday and started on a Monday. We’ll just see what doors open this time.”

Volpicella is the latest of several longtime KVUE employees set to leave in the coming weeks, though for unrelated reasons. Tyler Sieswerda, evening news anchor for the past 11 years, is relocating to Dallas and KVUE president and general manager Patti Smith, a 17-year veteran, said recently she is stepping down.

Both Sieswerda and Smith will leave in May.

“Frank Volpicella is an icon in the television news business, not only in Austin, but throughout the country,” Smith said. “He’s given his heart and his considerable talents to this station for over 15 years. From day one, Frank and I have agreed on the principles of how you create and manage a team of individuals that will exemplify ‘Where trust is earned.’ That partnership between general manager and news director has been critical to the success of the station over the years.

“I hold Frank in the highest of regard for his character. He’s the most principled news director I’ve ever known and he sets the example for integrity in the business. KVUE wouldn’t be the honored station it is without his years of commitment to our service and success. For that, the entire staff at KVUE thanks him for his years of dedicated service to KVUE and this community.”

Smith, Volpicella said, is a big reason why he’s been at KVUE so long.

“Patti and I connected from the very beginning,” he said. “In 15 and a half years, we’ve never once had a disagreement. It’s uncanny. I’ve had many opportunities arise elsewhere over the years, but I always chose to stay.”

During Volpicella’s time at KVUE, he was responsible for hiring almost all of the reporters and news anchors on the air today and oversaw newscasts that have received countless awards and have consistently ranked at or near the top of the Austin Nielsen ratings.

“I’m most proud of my staff,” Volpicella said. “Our success has always been about what the staff accomplishes. Their hard work won us the station’s first Emmy, the station’s first Peabody and a national Murrow Award.”

Volpicella said he’s particularly proud of the many employees – in front of the cameras and behind the scenes – over the years who’ve jumped to TV stations in larger cities. Some have even gone to the major networks.

One of those success stories is Michelle Chism, who spent two years as KVUE’s assistant news director before moving up to a station in Baltimore.

“His dedication to KVUE, his staff, ‘capital J’ journalism and his community is unwavering,” Chism said. “Not only does Frank set the bar for journalists, he raises it so we can all become better, both professionally and personally. You will find no one better at managing people. You will find no one with better news judgment. You will find no one with higher ethics. I feel very blessed to have worked with Frank. He is, bar none, the best boss I’ve ever had. But I am even more privileged to call him a friend.”

KVUE wins prestigious Peabody Award

KVUE took home a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award over the weekend for a special report on the state of mental health care in Texas.

Investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti, executive news director Frank Volpicella and others traveled to New York City to accept the honor.

This is the first time an Austin TV station has won a Peabody Award, according to KVUE.

“To be recognized with the George Foster Peabody Award is affirmation that our work can affect positive change within our community by shedding light on issues of great importance,” KVUE president and general manager Patti Smith said. “It’s one of the highest honors in the broadcasting business to be recognized with this prestigious award and one that will underscore our commitment to excellence as we go forward.”

The 30-minute special, “The Cost of Troubled Minds,” aired in September. It was the result of seven months of digging, Pierrotti said in an interview last year.

“The issues impacting the mentally ill in Texas are mind-blowing,” he said, “and there’s certainly no easy fix.”

Many of those issues are due to repeated budget cuts in past years, the station found.

“The plight of the mentally ill and the lack of resources to care and treat them is a problem not only in Austin, but across the nation,” Volpicella said. “We are grateful that our documentary inspired a state senator to file legislation to address the shortage of mental health workers in Texas. We hope ‘The Cost of Troubled Minds’ will continue to spark legislative action to solve this growing social problem.”

Established in 1940, the Peabody Awards are presented annually by the University of Georgia.