Longtime out TV news reporter Hank Plante to retire

The Bay Area Reporter broke the news on its blog last Thursday, March 11 that longtime openly gay television reporter Hank Plante will retire at the end of the month.

Plante is considered one of the first on-air journalists to come out publicly. And he long has been a supporter of NLGJA, most recently moderating a heated Q&A with AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer at the 2007 San Diego NLGJA convention.

In an interview published in today’s (Thursday, March 18) B.A.R., Plante discusses his post retirement plans:

“The first thing I want to do is turn down the volume after 30 years in TV news. I plan to have a more relaxed day,” said the 63-year-old Plante, who will be moving to Palm Springs with his husband, Roger Groth . “I have to say I just consider myself so lucky to work at such a wonderful TV station in such a wonderful city. I am just filled with gratitude.”

When Plante arrived in San Francisco in 1985 he quickly made a name for himself by covering the AIDS epidemic then devastating the city’s gay male population. His coverage would garner him accolades within his field and is his own milestone when he looks back at the stories he brought to viewers.

“The work I am proudest of here is the work I did covering AIDS in the 1980s. I honestly think we saved people’s lives because we were talking about it on TV every night at a time when the government was silent,” said Plante, who won both Peabody and local Emmy awards for the coverage.

Plante had planned to stay on as KPIX CBS5’s political editor through the fall in order to cover this year’s elections. But when a round of buy-out offers were made to employees of the local affiliate, Plante opted to make an early exit. But he doubts he will remain out of camera shot for long:

“I am not sure what that is going to be, whether I write a column or blog or work as a political analyst. Whatever it will be, it will be part time,” said Plante. “I might write a book. I am not sure.”

His departure is in sharp contrast from the bitter parting the station made with another of its longtime openly gay reporters: Tony Russomanno. He was axed along with several other staffers in May of 2008. The firings led to two of the other reporters who were let go filing suit against the station claiming age and sex discrimination.

Plante’s departure on March 24 will mark the first time in years there are no openly gay reporters at the Bay Area’s three main network affiliates. The only out gay TV reporter I am aware of left on air in the San Francisco market is Dan Kerman at KRON4, a local independent station.

Seems like there should be an opportunity here for an out gay TV reporter wanting to move into a bigger market to start making some calls.

It doesn’t seem right that one of the birthplaces of the modern gay rights movement has no one to tell its story on a major TV channel here.

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