After three decades in television news and more than a dozen years at KTLA, News Director Jason Ball celebrated his last day at the station on Friday.
A beloved leader who more than doubled the number of hours of news broadcast on KTLA during his tenure, Ball announced his plans to leave last month. It was a surprise to many. Ball, 50, said it was time for a change — though he’s not sure what the future holds.
“It’s been an amazing 12 1/2 years,” Ball said on the KTLA Morning News Friday morning. “This is the most unique TV station in the country. … We do it our own way.”
The first time he appeared as a guest on air, Ball said, he was a “nervous wreck.” But since then he’s learned — from station reporters, anchors and “KTLA family” behind the scenes — to just be his quirky self. That’s a big part of what makes KTLA special, he said.
KTLA staff appeared in a video to mark Ball’s last day, sending their well wishes, thanking him and telling him what an impact he’d had on their lives. Executive Producer Jennifer Thang told him he’d been “the best dad that I could have ever asked for.”
Longtime reporter Eric Spillman told Ball he had helped professionalize the station, and anchor Cher Calvin said he was the “best boss that we’ve ever had.”
“Everybody’s heart is broken today,” Calvin said.
Station General Manager Janene Drafs summarized what many see in Ball: “Jason is that special combination — he’s passionate, wicked smart, funny and best of all — he cares deeply for the people behind the scenes, and those you see on air every day at KTLA.”
Ball will always part of the KTLA family, Drafs said.
Assistant News Director Kerry Brace called Ball “innovative, bold and a true visionary,” emphasizing his role in building KTLA into a top-rated station in L.A.
Olsen Ebright, this writer’s boss, recalled coming to the station to lead a tiny digital team that’s since multiplied in size and scope many times over.
“Thanks to Jason, we went from a scrappy, little web team to being one of the most-viewed local TV news websites in the country,” said Ebright, assistant news director, digital.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes KTLA in Hollywood, presented Ball remotely with a city proclamation signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the other council members “in recognition of your service to the people of Los Angeles.” O’Farrell had honored Ball at a council meeting earlier in the week.
Ball came to KTLA in 2008, after seven years as an executive producer and producer at competitors in Los Angeles: KCBS, KCAL and KNBC. Prior to that, he worked at stations in Memphis and Miami.
A fifth-generation Arkansan, Ball also became known at KTLA for a recent passion: bee-keeping.
Under his leadership at KTLA, the station launched multiple podcasts — including Ball’s own, “The News Director’s Office” — began the online-only streaming show “5 Live,” and went from 32 hours of news produced each week to 86 1/2 hours. The KTLA Morning News, launched in 1991, became the market’s highest-rated newscast.
Ball thanked his husband Troy for decades of support. Coming home and trying to have a “normal life” after grueling days leading breaking news coverage could be difficult, he acknowledged.
“This is not a job, this is a lifestyle,” Ball said.
On Monday, he’ll “sleep late and not answer the phone.”