Former KTNV sports reporter Ron Futrell talks about his recent arrest, his firing and the media’s role
Thu, Aug 21, 2008 (midnight)
Photo: Iris Dumuk
For nearly 25 years, Ron Futrell was the face of KTNV Channel 13. His laid-back, friendly demeanor, coupled with solid sports reporting and an instantly recognizable voice, made the 51-year-old father of four welcome into thousands of homes each night. But it’s been a rough summer for Futrell. After finding out his contract with the station would expire in December, and after a late-night car accident and his subsequent arrest July 25, which ended with his firing from the station for “serious misconduct,” Futrell’s nice-guy image has taken a shellacking. In an exclusive interview with Las Vegas Weekly, Futrell explains the accident, his arrest and how local media got it wrong.
So explain the accident.
I was going North on I-15 at Charleston in the right-hand lane, going toward the flyover, and had made contact with a car on my left. So my driver’s side hit their passenger side and … my head busted out the window and it knocked me out briefly. I don’t even know for how long, but I was KO’d there. By the time I had realized what had happened … the window was broken, so I couldn’t see to my left, and I was dazed and knew there was no safe place to stop. So I continued on through the flyover and pulled over at Rancho, where I thought it was safe. I was still stunned and thought the driver who hit me would have followed me there, but I didn’t realize the other driver stopped somewhere around Charleston. So at that point, I wasn’t thinking straight because I hit my head pretty hard. I just thought, “Okay, no harm no foul, I got the worst of it and the other driver didn’t follow me over, so it must have been over.” At that point, I should have called [the police]. But I wasn’t thinking straight … so I went home and somebody got my license plate number.
How long was it between the accident and when the cops came to your house?
I don’t know. I’m guessing about an hour … they knocked on the door and asked to look in the garage, I said absolutely; they wanted to check out my car, I let them check my car. They wanted to look inside my car; I let them look inside my car. What I wasn’t clear about was when the officer was asking me about the details of the accident. I was blank. I wasn’t real sure. So she was frustrated with me, and rightly so. So one thing led to another and next thing I know, they took me to the station and within a couple of hours, they let me go.
Did police give you a sobriety test?
No. I was willing to and would have, but they didn’t give me a blood test or sobriety test.
Did you offer?
I don’t remember, but my wife was with me the whole time and a lot of what had happened I got from her, but by the time I got the jail I told them whatever tests they wanted to run, they could. They ended up not running it, but I offered. I told them, “Do whatever you need.”
So what about the mug shot where you look totally wasted?
You know, I was joking around with the guys down at the jail, and I’m a fun-loving guy who manages to try to have fun no matter what situation I’m in. So I’m joking with them, and at some point they took my picture. I mean, I could have made myself look like Nick Nolte with the angry, bitter, mean look on my face, but that’s not me.
So what happened in the next couple of days at the station when you were ultimately fired?
When station management had said, “We’re firing you for serious misconduct,” my reaction was, “Well, okay.” It didn’t surprise me much because I know the business well enough, and I know the media. Nobody else in the media would have had their traffic tickets read on the air. Even if someone was arrested in the media, it wouldn’t have gone on the air … but when you become a public figure … sometimes that’s the double-edge sword you deal with.
What do you think it says though about the station, though, when they were the first ones to report the story and ultimately ended up throwing you under the bus?
It’s hard for me to fault them for doing that because I look at the big picture. I look at 25 years of great experience and this was one day, one time, one thing, and I can’t fault them. You know, I wouldn’t have wanted to do the story. If I had the decision and it was one of my co-workers, I would have fought to say, “Hey, wait a second, where’s the context?” I don’t think TV news does context very well. We just don’t. We will make the argument that we just don’t have time, and maybe that’s legitimate in some cases, but we don’t put things in the proper context.