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Monday, February 27, 2012

Reflecting on high points in 38 years of broadcasting.

Last year at this time I truly had one of my most enjoyable runs in broadcasting, as the voice of the White Pine High School Football and Basketball broadcasts on a local radio station.
While I never considered myself a sports broadcaster or sports journalist, it seems that local fans didn't care.  I'm glad.  I truly had a blast doing those games.
But my most fun was broadcasting two games from the State Finals for Basketball in Las Vegas.

The High School sports association here in Nevada along with the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas put on a total "big game" NBA Style atmosphere that some of these young people will never get to experience.
I broadcast not only the 2A Girls title game for KELY, but also the 3A Boys title game for Winnemucca's KWNA.
While the White Pine fans were happy to hear the game, I was THRILLED with the responses I got from KWNA Listeners.  I know that Captain Ken Christine was an icon in Lowry High School, but the positive responses that started two minutes after the game finished floored me.  People were excited to hear my broadcast and were happy that I was pulling for a team that I had to call the games for on the other side of the bench all season.
As much fun as I had doing the Sports broadcasts in 2010-2011, though, there have been some moments that  hold greater significance in my career.
In 1976 I was working at KUDL-AM and FM in Kansas City.  I had the opportunity while I was there to help with the Mutual Broadcasting Systems coverage of the Republican National Convention.  It was also my first chance to see the new (then) high speed data wires.  Back then, we still had the old clunky teletypes in Kansas City.  But the big boys brought in the new 1200 bps Okidata printers.  Better than the 65 CPM teletypes, but by today's standards slow as can be.
The night of August 3rd, 1976 was my first big test.  KUDL was doing full time election coverage and I was in the board op position driving where Bob Reed told me to go.  All at once Reed tells me to go to a recorded report and jumps on the phone telling me to get ready for a break in for a bulletin. He gets off the phone and tells me to dump the report and roll the bulletin sounder.  Reed reported "unconfirmed reports" that the senator-elect had been killed in a plane crash.  We went back to NBC, I ran into a tape room and called the police department and airport and got confirmation tha the plane that Litton was supposed to be on had crashed and that there were no survivors.  We had the story first, but we were the last to proclaim him dead because we could get no one to go on the record to say the man was dead.  Responsible journalism, what a concept.

In 1980 I took on the job of news director of KICS Radio in Hastings Nebraska.  It was a job that I was not ready to handle but I took it with all the zeal and relish that I could muster.  But my enthusiasm was dampened by a new wife who didn't share my zeal.  She didn't want to work, didn't want to keep house, didn't want to support my career. In late May she brought her two young nephews to spend a couple of weeks in the summer with us.  Since we did not own a washing machine we all went to the Laundromat to wash our clothes.  As the sun began to set, I notice to the north a very slow moving line of storms that seemed to be barely moving at all.  As we went home I tuned in the radio stations in the city 25 miles to our north.  They were reporting storm activity.  All at once they posted a tornado warning and the station that I was listening to went off the air.  I tuned a couple of other stations from there and they were also off.
I drove to the radio station to look at the weather wire coming from that city -- Grand Island, Nebraska.  The message about the tornado warning was followed by words I had never seen before nor would see again.  "Forecasters abandoning facility".  It was a night immortalized in a book and made-for-TV movie.
I called the program director and we put the station back on the air to relay as much information as we could. While we were making the decision a second tornado warning was issued.  We finally got through to our Grand Island station and put them on the air for a few minutes to relay emergency information.  After a time we lost the phone connection due to the storm and yet another tornado warning was issued.  As I was about to comment of the unusual nature of having three warnings for the same area issued back to back the program director decided that enough was enough and he had to be back in to do the morning show.  I went back to the house, listening to KRGI in Grand Island, which was alternating between live announcements and NOAA Weather Radio.
My years of living in Kansas, seeing massive tornado destruction, even seeing Topeka days removed from the  1966 F5 tornado that devastated the capital city didn't prepare me for the devastation that took apart much of Grand Island.  Seven confirmed tornadoes in a storm system creeping along at less than ten miles an hour left destruction as far as the eye could see.  Irrigation rigs twisted, torn, and tossed aside like an infant's tinker toys.  My reports went out over AP and UPI, live and taped interviews with WINS and KFBK, and capped off with covering President Carter live.
The coverage didn't save my job, but years later, the then manager of KRGI told me that he knew we went on the air, and he said that we probably saved some lives.
I pray he was right.

I have many more stories to write about, but for now I will post this much and add more stories later, including the Oklahoma City Bombing, reporting on a tornado that isn't there, OJ, a 10 state power failure, and more.
Thanks for listening.

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