Lights, Camera, Pahrump: Meet the HBO 'Small Town News' team (aired 2021)


Courtesy WarnerMedia

Originally aired: Aug. 16, 2021

We're doing a summer series, looking back at some of the interesting people and topics we've talked about on State of Nevada over last several years. 

Southern Nevadans know Pahrump as the quirky Nye County community in the next valley west of Las Vegas. Now HBO viewers can get an introduction.

The six-part documentary show “Small Town News KPVM Pahrump” follows the staff of a TV station as it covers the news, and in the process, according to HBO, “revealing a colorful cast of characters in front of and behind the cameras.”

Leading the cast are station owner Vern Van Winkle and his wife, Ronda, an aspiring singer and songwriter.

Vern Van Winkle said he bought the station nearly 25 years ago for the opportunity to broadcast “without corporate influence.”

Ronda Van Winkle said the station is known for its news, but KPVM provides full-service TV coverage to the Pahrump area, which is home to almost 45,000 people.

“We have all sorts of different programming,” she told State of Nevada. “So it goes from local news all the way to your favorite movie. We have court programming during the day.”

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She said that HBO show is a chance to show the world that Pahrump is more than a mix of suburbia and rural “over the hump” from Las Vegas.

“People just think it's a little tiny hick town, but we actually have quite a bit going on here,” Ronda Van Winkle said. "We have a very positive community, a community that's very connected to each other, very philanthropic."

The mission of the news coverage is to give voice to the people of the Pahrump.

"I really enjoy anything that's community-news related," said station news director Deanna O'Donnell "I try to let people speak on their own.

"I try not to put any of my opinion or angle or anything on that. And that's very important to me, that, that everybody's voices heard."

Vern Van Winkle said the station is looking to expand into the Las Vegas Valley, including exploring putting a studio on Water Street in downtown Henderson.

The “Small Town News” show is executive produced by Emmy-winning filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.

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​Vern Van Winkle, owner, KPVM; Ronda Van Winkle, co-owner, KPVM; Deanna O'Donnell, news director and anchor, KPVM; John Kohler, station "weatherologist"; Janet Errett, tower engineer/account executive, KPVM

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