Karole Honas is probably the most popular and recognizable person in Eastern Idaho. Actually, there’s no probably. She is the most popular person here, and for good reason, she’s been the face of TV news in Eastern Idaho since the 1970s. Thirty of those years at KIFI Local News 8.
“You come to the ends of plateaus in your life, I know, but wow, this is a big one,” Honas said in an interview at her home in Blackfoot.
Honas grew up in Gooding, then became a reporter after graduating from the University of Idaho in 1977. She got a job at KPVI News Channel 6 in Pocatello and worked there for several years as a reporter and anchor. Over the years, she started her family. She had three boys and eventually left reporting to raise them. Then in 1990, she got an unexpected call from Jay Hildebrandt at KIFI. His co-anchor Susan Furniss had her baby early and was on a six-week maternity leave.
“I said, ‘If you saw me, you would not ask that question.’ He said, ‘Could you come in and do a tape?’ and so I did,” Honas said. “I went in and cut a tape and they said, ‘Yea, can you start tomorrow.’”
Those six weeks flew by and turned into 1 year, then 5 years, then eventually 30.
“Doesn’t that sound like a big number?” Honas asked rhetorically. “It feels so far off and then all of a sudden it’s gone in a blink of an eye.”
Hildebrandt not only hired Honas, but he was also by her side for 29 years on the anchor desk. He retired last year.
“It was an absolute delight,” Hildebrandt said of working with Honas for 29 years. “Karole and I got along so well. And after working together for so many years we got to know each other very well, and from the perspective of being co-anchors, that was a good thing.”
Over the years, Honas grew into a newsroom mentor and a mother figure to the new reporters in the newsroom. It’s a role she has relished but didn’t realize quite the impact she made until she was honored for working at Local News 8 for 25 years and watched a congratulations video.
“And when that all came flooding back to me in their testimonials, if you will, I was like, ‘So that’s what I’ve been doing over the last 25 years, I’ve been teaching,’” Honas said. “And that kind of made me feel good about myself.”
Eastern Idaho news viewers received all the major local and national news from Honas and Hildebrandt. She said stories like 9/11, devastating fires and missing children cases stand out the most to her. But more than the stories she’s reported about are the people she’s connected with.
“People fuel my tank and I loved, not so much anchoring, but reporting, getting out in the streets,” Honas said.
People may fuel the tank for Honas, but she fuels the tank for her co-workers. Terri Reddout started as a reporter at KPVI just months after Honas and they have been friends ever since. Reddout said when she first met Honas she told her, “We’re going to be working together and we’re going to have fun.” She kept her promise.
“We became quite the team,” Reddout said.
Reddout became an educator and worked at Weber State University for several years. She would take her broadcast students up to Idaho Falls to work with Honas in the newsroom to see what it was really like. Reddout said Honas would give them opportunities to write and shoot video.
“They found out they could do it. It’s that kind of ‘You can do it attitude’ that is so supportive and helps students,” Reddout said.
Brenda Baumgartner Stanley worked with her too. She said when she applied to work at Local News 8 in the 1990s, she already had a family and had them drop her off for the interview. When Honas found out they were nearby, she invited them in.
“And I think that’s the thing that really bonded the two of us together as friends, is that even though we had a passion for news people and loved what we did as a job, we were both parents to young children,” Stanley said. “It was just this common bond and stuck with us and we’ve been so close and such good friends since 1992.”
Stanley, Reddout, Mark Browning, another life-long friend, and Todd Kunz, her current co-anchor, all agree Honas is the real deal. What you see on TV is what you get.
“She is somebody that, even if you don’t really know her, and you’ve watched her for years, you feel like she is a friend,” Stanley said.
“What you see every night at 5, 6 and 10 is what you see in the grocery store, it’s what you see when you run into her at C-A-L Ranch, it’s what you’d see with her when the kids were in 4H or playing football,” Browning said. “That’s Karole. She’s absolutely real. She is Karole. That’s who she is. There’s nothing fake, there’s nothing put on, there’s no airs about her, that’s who she is. And that’s why she connects. She’s real.”
“What you turn on the TV and see right there, if you were to turn the TV off and come into our newsroom in person and meet Karole in person, there would be no difference,” Kunz said. “What I mean, is what you see on TV is what she is behind the scenes. There’s no difference.”
Kris Millgate agrees. She worked as a reporter at Local News 8 twice and Honas was the first person she called when she wanted to return to Idaho Falls.
“The relationship I have with Karole means so much to me professionally and personally,” Millgate said. “She was the first I called who reassured me that that move could happen and made sure that I could get here, and everything just kind of took off from there.”
Honas is just that way. Supportive, a champion of her friends. Michael Coats, the current meteorologist at Local News 8 has grown close to her too. He and his wife met while both working at Local News 8. While his wife may have left as they’ve grown their family, Honas has become part of their family. Coats said she welcomed him with open arms when he started at Local News 8.
“This was just a very welcoming person,” Coats said. “Karole was just there… as our Idaho mother welcoming us to Channel 8 and the folks at KIFI.”
As Honas retires, she said she will spend more time with her family and friends, clean out her house of all the stuff she’s accumulated over the last 40 some odd years and spend some time with her miniature ponies. She has this message for Eastern Idaho.
“Please be kind to each other. I don’t know where we lost that. Eastern Idaho was always conservative, but it wasn’t mean, it was never mean and somewhere we took a turn,” she said. “Please, Eastern Idaho, take care of each other like we always did before.”
Honas will have her final day at Local News 8 on Friday, August 28. Because of COVID-19, there will not be a reception for her, but you can leave your thoughts on Local News 8’s website.