LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Paula Francis remembers the beginning of her journey at KLAS in Las Vegas came at the end of another.
“Another station had fired me,” Francis recalled. “They had told me, ‘Well, nobody else in Las Vegas is going to hire you, so don’t even think about it.'”
History proved them wrong as Francis soon met with then-KLAS news director Bob Stoldal and general manager Emily Nielsen. Over several cups of coffee, Francis was offered the evening anchor job.
“Everything was just kismet when I went to channel 8, it was wonderful,” said Francis.
The anchor recalled some of her memorable assignments, including working with George Knapp at the start of his investigations into UFOs and UNLV’s 1991 appearance in the final four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“Gary [Waddell] and I did all of the big events,” she remembered. “The new casinos and all the openings — the implosions — I think the implosions were a lot of fun.”
Francis and Waddell would be a working pair for many years. She recalled her on-air partner’s sense of humor.
“He had such great timing, you know, really serious on air,” said Francis. “Then the moment that commercial came on, and we were sort of just chatting among ourselves, he would tell these zingers. And sometimes it’d be hard to come back from it.”
Humor, Francis recalled, was a way for the journalists to work through the tragedy often prevalent in the news cycle. She remembered sad and forever-changing news covered at KLAS over the years, including the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 dead and the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, during which Francis remembers her reaction.
“I went into the ladies’ dressing room and I prayed,” Francis said. “I don’t pray very much, but I was very, very worried that it was the start of World War 3.”
She said that 22 years after the attacks, it’s hard for her to imagine that feeling. While on the air on that September morning, Francis tried to reassure the audience that the US was not at war. Later she would receive a sobering call from a viewer.
“Someone called me later that day and said, ‘You’re so wrong — we are at war.'”
Francis recalled being in New York one year after 9/11 in a building damaged in the attacks for live coverage.
“I mean, every American felt that. I think everyone in the world felt 9/11 deep inside, but to be in New York […] was very sobering,” said Francis.
Looking back, Francis remembers the tremendous fun of being part of the KLAS newsroom and the teamwork that made and continues to make 8 News Now run today.
“Channel 8 is great, not just because of those of us who were lucky enough to be on air and to be embraced by the community,” said Francis. “But there are so many people that are actually channel 8. And they include Bob Stoldal and Emily Nielsen — all of the camera operators, all of the engineers — the engineers are really keeping the place running.”
Francis may be out of the limelight, but that doesn’t mean she’s not keeping busy.
“Mainly, what I’m doing is catching up on lost time,” Francis said. “It’s great to have had a great career, enjoyed it, and felt like you contributed.”
And with that career complete, Francis said she is able to kick back and enjoy life.
“So that’s what I do,” she said. It’s not too complicated.”