A recent sabbatical from the anchor desk she’s occupied for more than two decades convinced KHQ-TV’s Stephanie Vigil she wanted to explore life beyond the newsroom.
“I just feel like the time is right,” Vigil said from her desk at the downtown offices of KHQ on Tuesday, before anchoring the 5 p.m. newscast. “It’s a good time for me to go, jump on a new path and enjoy my life.”
Vigil, who joined the NBC affiliate in 1997 and quickly became one of the area’s most popular news broadcasters, announced her departure from the station on Monday. She plans to remain on the desk until June 8.
The decision comes in the middle of a contract, Vigil said. She plans to split time between Spokane and California, where her two adult sons live, and to start a clothing company catering to her new favorite sport, pickleball.
“I was trying to find a clothing line out there, get some pickleball gear, and I couldn’t find anything that caught my eye,” said Vigil, whose degree from California State University, Sacramento, is in business and who previously owned her own chocolate-covered berry business, Very, Very Strawberry, in the mid-2000s.
Vigil said she trusts the station that hired her two decades ago will find a solid replacement for her evening news seat.
“I feel like it’s time to allow even the younger, really passionate journalists to come in and do some great work,” Vigil said.
Vigil came to KHQ-TV from KOVR in Sacramento, California. She was a reporter at that station for four years and a morning anchor, the position she took when coming to Spokane.
Sean Owsley, who’s worked alongside Vigil for her career at KHQ and takes over for the 6:30 nightly news program, said he remembered vividly his colleague’s first appearance on the station.
“I was in sports, and I was in the old trailer out at Seahawks camp, in Cheney, in ’97, for her first newscast,” Owsley said.
“She came on the screen, and it was kind of like a bolt of lightning,” he continued. “I think, why she’s been so massively popular and successful, is because the person I saw is the exact person you see today.”
Vigil and Dan Kleckner were named the evening anchors in November 2000 and worked together for more than two decades at KHQ, which is owned by the Cowles Co. that also publishes The Spokesman-Review. Vigil has been hosting the 5 p.m. newscasts herself since Kleckner’s retirement in October 2021.
In recent months, she’s appeared on-screen with Owsley, who had been working the morning show before taking over the 6:30, and in recent weeks with Leslie Lowe, the chief forecaster for KHQ who’d been filling in for Blake Jensen. Jensen left the station in January.
Lowe and Owsley said they believed Vigil was making the right decision for herself and her family.
“I could always count on this core group right here,” Lowe said. “Stephanie, Sean. They’re your people. We’re going to be minus one.”
“I’m thrilled for her because she’s embracing life over money, or career, or profile,” Owsley said. “And that’s to be commended.”
KHQ has not named a replacement for their 5 p.m. news broadcast. Vigil said she was thankful to the community for letting her into their homes each night, and for routinely naming her among the top news broadcasters in Spokane in publications including the Inlander and Spokane Coeur d’Alene Magazine.
“I’m leaving because I don’t think that we’re one-dimensional,” Vigil said. “I think people have many different passions, and they are multidimensional. And that’s me.”
One of those passions is Gonzaga basketball. Vigil was an adjunct instructor at the university, where she received a master’s degree in communication and leadership in 2013, and is a superfan of the college. She hinted that a deep tournament run in March would be a great send-off.
“The great (stories) are obviously anything to do with Gonzaga. That’s been awesome, getting to cover them the entire time,” Vigil said. “I would love it if they can go to a championship game this year.”