Matt Miller has been the voice of KTOO’s morning news since 1998. Thursday, Sept. 30 was his last day hosting “Morning Edition” at the station. Reporter Bridget Dowd will be filling in as host for at least the month of October.
But before Matt stepped away, he sat down with Bridget to talk about what the job has meant to him and look back on some of his favorite memories.
Read a transcript of the conversation with minor edits for clarity.
Bridget Dowd: What’s been the hardest part of your job?
Matt Miller: It’s basically getting up at 3:20 every morning, and having to have two alarm clocks set in order to get up. When the weather’s really bad in the winter, sometimes it’s a little bit of a trek to get across the Douglas Bridge in order to get in on time before the first newscast. That’s kind of the hardest thing. It’s overturned my sleep schedule and you don’t have much of a social life because you’re going to bed at about the same time that everybody else is out having fun at night.
Bridget Dowd: What’s been the best part of your job?
Matt Miller: Best part of the job is being able to talk and connect up with the people of Juneau and bring them the stories that I think that they need to hear in order to start their day. Radio is a real powerful medium and when you’re producing stories for radio, you’re taking advantage of the listener’s own imagination to draw a picture that’s probably more indelible sometimes than perhaps television and even print.
Bridget Dowd: What has it been like to be Juneau’s first connection to what’s happening every day? Has it changed what it’s like to live here for you?
Matt Miller: It’s been fun. Like I said before, I like connecting with the Juneau audience. As a result, I’ve become a little bit more connected, since I’ve been here, to the community. I’ve stayed here a lot longer than I thought I was going to stay and I’ve kind of put down roots. So I’ve really come to appreciate the community and the people since I’ve been here and since I’ve worked here at KTOO.
Bridget Dowd: Do you have any stories from trekking to the office early in the morning or interesting things that happened during your early morning shift?
Matt Miller: There’s probably a lot of little different things that have happened — not really significant — it just kind of comes as part of the job. I remember one day, in this particular studio, which is the air studio for Morning Edition, being live on the air and because of construction that was underway at the time, a board that was behind the door fell down and essentially locked us all out of the studio while we were live on the air. So that was a little frustrating, a little bit of a panic, there’s only one door into the studio, for those who don’t know, and there’s no other way to get in here.
One of my memories of getting to the station early in the morning, I think that really kind of sticks with me, is one night, we had a real heavy snowfall and the plow trucks had not been out. I couldn’t get my truck out of the driveway and even drive to work. So I had to put on snowshoes and just kind of hoof it into the station, you know, in a blizzard.
Bridget Dowd: That’s a very uniquely Alaskan thing to do. What’s the strangest story you’ve covered?
Matt Miller: There was an event, several years ago, that included some people who had just kind of plopped into town. It was kind of nebulous. It wasn’t quite clear what it was they were doing, but they were soliciting donations of merchandise, from local businesses for this undefined event. There are a lot of good organizations in town for fundraising purposes that go to local businesses for this sort of thing, but the people who came into town were obviously from out of town.
As it turned out, this merchandise was being used as prizes in order to lure people into this kind of Evangelical revival type of event, which was spearheaded by this kind of D-list community access TV Evangelist, who had come up here and that was kind of the strangest thing.
Bridget Dowd: What’s your favorite story you’ve covered?
Matt Miller: So when I first started here at KTOO, one of the things that was kind of not really well known was a shipwreck that happened just north of Juneau, a century ago now. That was the wreck of the Princess Sophia. I did a mini documentary and a couple of features on that.
Some other things that I’ve had an interest in and it’s really been satisfying, you know, working on stories that have an impact on Alaskans.
One of them was about 2014 or 2015, there was something really weird that was happening in the North Pacific and Gulf of Alaska with water temperatures and there was nobody else covering it and nobody else doing stories about that at the time. It turned out to have enormous impacts on seabirds, marine mammals and whales and fin fish in the state and that of course was “the blob.”
Other stories that are really satisfying are ones that, when it comes to the court system and the justice system in the state, where there are issues with the pandemic and trials being postponed or budget cuts and people not getting the legal aid that they need in order to pursue their own legal issues. That’s really been fun and fulfilling to do stories like that.
Bridget Dowd: I’m gonna throw another one in here really quick because I know you’ve been sort of the natural disaster reporter around here. You seem to be the avalanche guy, the every disaster kind of guy. How did you get an interest in that and how did that start?
Matt Miller: I don’t know if one particular event started that or one particular story started that. I do remember several years ago that Capital City Fire Rescue put on a one day crash course firefighting training for members of the media and the assembly. I took part in that and that kind of spawned a whole bunch of different stories and kind of solidified the connection to emergency services and disasters, if you will. That kind of evolved eventually into, like you said, avalanches and, you know, search dog training and that sort of thing.
Bridget Dowd: Is there anything else that you want to say to the people who’ve been listening to you for so long?
Matt Miller: Just thanks for listening. Keep listening to KTOO. We have a crack team here in the news department who are probably not only best in Southeast, but probably the best in the entire state. Even if I’m gone, they will continue to bring you the news and information that you need. Just keep listening and I’ll be around in town for a while at least anyways.
Bridget Dowd: All right, well, thank you for sitting down and talking to me and I know a lot of people are going to miss you. So best of luck and in anything you do next.
Matt Miller: Thank you. Thank you very much.