A former KDLG reporter shares her experience after finding a camera in her room

(Photo by Sage Smiley)

Former KDLG reporter Sage Smiley is speaking out about indecent and illegal behavior by a host she was staying with over the summer to cover the Bristol Bay fishery.

Smiley was staying with John and Maureen Knutsen at their home in Naknek. Maureen Knutsen was the chairperson of the station’s program community advisory board, Friends of KDLG. She invited Smiley to stay at their home.

In June, Smiley found a camera in the room she was staying in.

“It was incredibly traumatic to have my privacy violated in such an intimate and sickening way,” she said. “Privacy or a feeling of safety isn’t something I feel I can assume anymore. I check every single room I’m in — for cameras.”

The camera belonged to John Knutsen.

John Knutsen was found guilty for a felony charge of indecent viewing in 2004. In recent years, KDLG reporters have stayed with the Knutsens in Naknek. Board members were aware of John Knutsen’s past but did not inform the station of his previous conviction.

“While talking to some of the (Friends of KDLG) board this summer in Dillingham, I wrote down in my notes app quotes like, ‘I thought he had redeemed himself in the eyes of the community,’ and, ‘I was aware of it being (John Knutsen’s) history with cameras but thought things had smoothed over,’” Smiley said. “Turns out, they hadn’t.”

Maureen Knutsen resigned from her position on the advisory board in July after the incident. KDLG reached out to both Maureen and John Knutsen by email. Maureen Knutsen responded, but chose not to comment.

Board Chair Dan Dunaway, in a written statement, spoke on behalf of the advisory board.

“As a program advisory board, our authority is limited but we strongly support the KDLG staff and want to protect them and do whatever we are able to ensure they are protected by the law and avoid this in the future,” Dunaway wrote.

Smiley is hoping more people speak up about sexual misconduct and assault in Bristol Bay.

“There were so many points along this ordeal where someone could have said or done something,” she said. ”Things might have turned out entirely different. That’s why I want to speak out, because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through something I did.”

John Knutsen pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor for indecent view and photo without consent of an adult in July. Knutsen was in jail for 10 days. Five of those days were suspended. He paid $150 in fees and is on probation until July 2020.

If you need help, that help is available. The SAFE phone number is 907-842-2320. You can also email SAFE at outreach@safebristolbay.org. SAFE is in Dillingham and is Bristol Bay’s shelter, prevention and advocacy agency for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that former KDLG reporter Sage Smiley found the camera in the room in which she was staying in July. She found the camera in June.

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