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WPBS coping with sudden death of producer, host

Jan 6, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Richard Ager died Dec. 29 at his home in Lander.

Wyoming's Public Broadcasting Service in Riverton is scrambling to cope with the loss of public affairs producer Richard Ager, who died Dec. 29 at his home in Lander.

"It puts us at a real loss," WPBS assistant general manager Bob Connelly said Thursday. "The position that he held at the station was very important to our public mission, which has a heavy public affairs component to it."

Ager was in charge of a live, quarterly call-in program called Wyoming Perspectives as well as the weekly public affairs series Wyoming Chronicle.

"We're hustling right now just to figure out how to get out next week's show," Connelly said.

Ager also covered the Wyoming Legislature, which is set to convene in February.

"This legislative session (is) upon us already, and we don't have time to recruit someone to replace Richard," Connelly said. "Currently we don't have anyone on staff that has the depth of experience in public affairs that Richard had."

Ager came to Wyoming two years ago from New Hampshire, where he had worked for 18 years as a political reporter and producer for New Hampshire Public Television. Connelly said Ager was introduced to Wyoming politics by Geoff O'Gara, WPBS' previous public affairs producer.

"Geoff did a really good job of helping him get up to speed," Connelly said. "(Ager) obviously was very familiar with the process but needed to know the personalities."

O'Gara lives in Lander and works on contract for WPBS, and Connelly said station leaders might ask O'Gara to step in for Ager in February.

"That definitely was one of the first things we thought of," he said. "But as yet I'm not at liberty to discuss if and when."

WPBS promotions manager Jennifer Amend said she was impressed by Ager's ability to adapt to the political world out west.

"He came right in step with the issues that are important to us here," she said. "He was a terrific asset. To have someone of his caliber working at the station was a real honor for all of us."

WPBS general manager Ruby Calvert said Ager quickly distinguished himself as a skilled journalist during his short time in Fremont County.

"He produced more than 50 hours of unique programming to Wyoming citizens," she said. "He will be difficult to replace and greatly missed."

Connelly described Ager as a "kindhearted, wonderful man" who brought a lot of professionalism to the Riverton station.

"He was very insightful and very engaged in people and topics and issues," Connelly said. "He was a very bright man to talk with. He just made a tremendous contribution to the station as a whole in encouraging and strengthening the other members of the production team."

Ager's death came suddenly and was a shock to his co-workers, though Connelly said Ager had suffered from health issues recently. Ager had just completed interviews with historian David McCullough and former U.S. ambassador Marc Wall, which will air in January on WPBS.

Connelly extended the station's sympathies to Ager's wife, Renee, and children, Robert and Reece.

"We've suffered a professional loss, (but) we know their loss is much greater," Connelly said.

A native of Canada, Ager left New Hampshire after state budget cuts forced NHPTV to reduce a portion of its local programs. While in New Hampshire, he produced various public affairs programs, including live gavel-to-gavel coverage on the impeachment trial of State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock, dozens of presidential candidate profiles, in-depth reports on statewide issues like gay marriage, medical marijuana, the Northern Pass Project, and a documentary on the anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. He also produced television specials, including a documentary about the consequences of drunk driving, "Just One Night," which has been distributed nationally.

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