Veteran Anchorage TV reporter and anchor Maria Downey announces retirement after decades of Alaska journalism

A woman in a black coat poses outside
Maria Downey outside Alaska Public Media Studios on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Longtime Anchorage journalist and news anchor Maria Downey has announced that she will retire at the end of the month, capping more than 40 years of work in Alaska. 

Downey moved to Alaska from Florida with her husband in 1981, first working as a reporter for TV station KINO before moving four years later to KTUU, now known as Alaska’s News Source, where she’s been an anchor for almost four decades. Her last broadcast at Alaska’s News Source is set for Jan. 26.

Downey says she moved to Alaska as oil money began flowing in, and the state began to see a rapid rise in wealth and population.


[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Maria Downey: It was a great time to be a reporter because it was the boom period. So there was no hesitation to take a private jet someplace, believe it or not. CNN or NBC, whatever the affiliates were at the time, would not hesitate to spend the money. We had a helicopter at Channel 13 before many other local TV stations had it. It was a good time to report because the money was there.

Wesley Early: Can you tell me a bit about what some of your first stories were when you came to the state?

MD: I don’t remember the exact stories. But I remember my favorite stories because I loved the rich traditions and cultures of Alaska. So I typically would really try to focus on those stories. But I was also the court reporter. So there were days I was in court, and you couldn’t have cameras in the courtroom back then. So picture this: a full day in a courtroom, taking notes, and then typically a very long, and I think about it now, probably very boring, stand up (on-camera live interview) outside of the courthouse, because we couldn’t be inside. But my favorite stories from that to this day are the rich cultures and traditions of Alaska.

WE: So tell me about when you became an anchor? I imagine at the time, there weren’t a lot of female anchors in Alaska.

MD: Well there typically was. Usually the male anchor was called the “lead” anchor, which we really don’t have any longer. But when I started at Channel 13, I was mostly reporting and then I did a morning program called Good Morning Alaska. I did some co-anchoring there. But when I went to Channel 2 as a reporter, within six weeks, I was anchoring. So that was really a good move. 

WE: What did you like about anchoring?

MD: So I loved being able to share all the day’s news. As a reporter, I covered consumer issues and other issues that affected individuals and their families, which I liked. But at the end of the day — literally at the end of the day and my shift, anchoring — I really liked sharing all those stories, all the stories of the day in the news, so that people were aware of what was going on in their community. And in their state and sometimes nation. We didn’t do as much national news, and we still don’t do as much national news. 

A woman in a red shirt sits in a recording studio
Maria Downey at Alaska Public Media Studios on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

WE: If my math is right, that’s more than 30 years as an anchor. And one of the things I think about, especially now, is trust in the media among people is kind of lower. People are more skeptical of the news media industry. That’s kind of a position of authority and a position of trust. Have you noticed that change, how people perceive you as an anchor over the years?

MD: We’re really lucky at our station, because we’re sort of in a unique position. We’ve been the No. 1 station, and had that really good relationship with people throughout the state, for many years. So I think we have that position, not only of authority, but trust, that some local stations don’t have because they turn over so quickly. When we go to a village, we go to rural Alaska, there’s people like meeting us at the airstrip. So when you go there, and you feel that connection. We don’t get as much of that negativity. We’re kind of in a really unique position. I’m not saying we don’t get complaints at times. But I think people, when they look at their local news, they have more of that connection than they do to national news or cable news, where they give opinions and that sort of thing. That’s not our role.

WE: Yeah. How would you explain that difference? And how would you explain how local journalists really, more than any other type of journalist, are very invested in their local communities?

MD: Well, this is our home. I know you see people coming and going throughout the years. But when you look at Jackie (Purcell), and me and Mike (Ross), and I mean, there’s people in our newsroom who have been there, like (chief photographer) Eric Sowl, for 20 or more years, for decades. Some even for three decades. It’s our community. We’re invested in it. You see us at community events with our families. So it’s really part of our fabric, too. So it would be a disservice to do anything that’s not honest and fair to our community. I think people see that. I think they see that we’re out and about and this is our home.

WE: This may seem like an odd question, I don’t know how often you’ve thought about this, but do you think about your legacy as a journalist and what you hope people look back and think about Maria Downey as a reporter, what they think? 

MD: Boy, I really don’t don’t think about it, but if… I guess you can play this years from now for my obit, right? “How do you want to be remembered?” 

I hope that people will remember my work as being fair and honest and caring, because it is my home. I hope that people remember that the stories we shared were not our opinions, but facts, so they can help their families and community and their state to see through certain issues and maybe even become activists in whatever they believe to make their community better and maybe start being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Looking at ways to help, whether it’s donating their time, talent, treasure. You know, the old stewardship motto. Hopefully what we’ve done, and what I’ve done throughout the years, has helped to push people toward doing what’s right for their community and helping to solve some of the problems.

a portrait of a man outside

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

Previous articleTrial begins in 30-year-old Ketchikan cold-case rape
Next articleNavigating college with disabilities | Line One: Your Health Connection