Sean Trcalek: KATC-TV General Manager Shares How Traditional News Media is Evolving

Discover Lafayette welcomes Sean Trcalek, Vice President and General Manager of KATC, who is also known for his wide-ranging musical talents.  With over 30 years of experience in broadcast and sales, Trcalek previously served as general manager for KADN, KLAF, and My Network Acadiana. An active volunteer, Trcalek serves on the board of United Way of Acadiana, Acadiana Open Channel, and the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters.

After graduating from USL (now UL-Lafayette) in Public Relations with an English Minor, Trcalek’s career began in 1989 at KATC. When he was just a small child, his passion for music began. “I’ve always been around music, I guess I figured at some point in time when I was growing up I would somehow make a living using my voice, and that’s kind of what happened,” Trcalek said. His enjoyed working in radio at KMDL when he was in high school. What started as a weekend disc jockey gig turned into a lifetime passion.

Sean Trcalek is a talented singer and musician who has always had a passion for his craft. “I’ve always been around music, I guess I figured at some point in time when I was growing up I would somehow make a living using my voice, and that’s kind of what happened,” Trcalek said. His career started in radio at KMDL when he was in high school. What started as a weekend disc jockey gig turned into a lifetime passion.

In college, Trcalek was involved in political media until he joined KATC right after graduation. In his career, he’s launched Cable Ad Sales for LUS Fiber, helped to build Delta Media, and created various coffee table books, but at heart, he’s a broadcaster. With a staff of over 80 individuals at KATC, Trcalek specializes in getting the station on the air. “When I started in 1989, I never thought that I would become a general manager,” Trcalek said.

“I was drawn to television because of KATC,” Trcalek said. KATC is affiliated with ABC and owned by the 150-year-old media company E.W. Scripps. KATC is a journalist-based company, which owns primarily news stations. KATC is more than just a television news station, they have mobile apps and streaming services. Starting next year, they will be the home of SEC Football. “We’re in the business of Impressions,” Trcalek said. KATC provides news in the morning, but their website stays active all day.

KATC is an ABC affiliate serving viewers in the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion.

In regard to how Covid affected advertising, Trcalek mentioned that the economy has a direct correlation to ad sales. “The big product categories for TV stations are food, restaurants, dining, medical services, legal services and the automotive industry and as a whole, all that stuff came to a halt.” Trcalek said, “The nation saw about a 40% drop in ad revenue last year.” With anchors working from home, some viewers were put off by the inevitable change.

“The role of local media hasn’t really changed…no one else can provide information on which schools are closing and what to wear to school and where to buy a car in Crowley,” Trcalek said.  He mentioned the heated term “fake news” and said, “For me as a local broadcaster, obviously it’s very troubling and concerning for a bunch of reasons.”

He states his fears that the local news may be getting lumped into opinion-based news. “We are there to provide a voice to the majority (of Lafayette) and the minority,” Trcalek said, “We are there to give voice to the voiceless.” The polarization of the country may be affecting viewers opinions on their local stations, as well as the people buying ads for the station. “Our company recognizes the dilemma that sometimes we are in, we have to address issues through newscasts that people don’t want to talk about…issues of equality, of race, of poverty, of injustice, and sometimes people don’t want to hear that,” Trcalek said.

The biggest change that Trcalek has seen over his 30-year career is simply, the internet. “We have to reach people wherever they are, whether that’s in front of the television, by DVR, streaming on their phone, through our website, through social media…we have to meet them where they are,” Trcalek said. He mentioned that in the past, people watched the news at the same time every day, around dinner time, but now the news is constant and monetizes impressions.

“When I started at KATC on January 9, 1989, I never dreamed I would become General Manager. I consider myself unbelievably blessed to be here. To be able to do this at home is pretty unique in our business. Broadcasters traditionally have been vagabonds, especially if you’re a manager for a station owned by a big corporation. Typically managers will come in from another market for five or six years and then they move on. I’m a UL grad and only the second UL grad to run the station. The first was KATC’s original manager, Bill Patton,” who was there in 1962 when the station began operations.

It’s become a necessity to be one step ahead in the world of broadcast news today. Trcalek mentioned that local news has the ability to stay ahead because people crave familiarity. Some people choose to watch a local station over another because they want to see local ads play. That advantage is key to keeping local news stations alive. “The major consumer of traditional TV is people over the age of 40, so nostalgia is always there,” Trcalek said. Those same people want, and perhaps need, to see positive news about their community.

Trcalek mentioned that the local news stations are here to serve the greater good, “We do well by doing good, we are more financially successful as a TV station when we are doing more good things for the people of Acadiana. “He mentioned that free-flowing information and the First Amendment are fundamental concepts of the American way of life. “We are regulated by the government and the FCC, we are required by the FCC to serve the interests of the people of Acadiana.” Trcalek said, “It’s in everybody’s best interest for local news to thrive.”