Glory Days: Media Continues to Change Through the Decades, but the People Stay the Same
I am the son of Irish immigrants, born and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Many wonder how I ended up in Arkansas. It’s a good story.
My best friend had a part-time job, working at New Hampshire’s Seabrook Greyhound Park. He presented me with an opportunity a then 17-year-old Steve Sullivan couldn’t turn down: a chance for part ownership of a racing dog. I went all in (about $400), and we purchased, “Keentwister.” It turned out to be a life-changing move.
I subsequently had to find a college with a Radio-TV program close to a dog track. Arkansas State University’s outstanding communications program was just an hour northwest of Southland Greyhound Park.
There was no campus visit. So, in August of 1978, I arrived in Jonesboro. I felt like an alien landing in a foreign land.
Forty-four years later, I’m still here. Arkansas has been my land of opportunity.
You have heard the saying, “Just get a foot in the door.” It was a radio job that paid $800 a month. I made more than one trip to the pawn shop. Money could have been a bigger issue if I wasn’t chasing a dream.
Later, at KHBS in Fort Smith, I learned the value of good mentors. I regret not properly thanking Bill Guffey and Ken Rank for taking an interest in me.
Radio led to TV, and in 1985, I found myself at KARK in Little Rock.
It was the heyday of what I affectionately call the “Ron Burgundy days” of TV. Local news was rolling, and people had only three options for their information: KARK, KATV and KTHV. The anchors were local celebrities. Those were the glory years for local television, which like many businesses, has gotten younger and cheaper – which is not a good thing.
Technology has also changed business in a big way. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to put on a sportscast 30 years ago, without computers and the internet. The reality now is that people get much of their sports news from Twitter.
I mentioned “younger and cheaper.” News stations that once flew helicopters are now in the drone business. I can’t imagine doing our high school football show, “Friday Night Touchdowns,” with a drone. Backpacks have replaced TV live trucks. The pandemic has also changed the business. Zoom is now a favorite tool of all TV stations.
Another big change as of late: Major media companies own almost all stations. I often remind myself that I’m employee No. 52356.
The best thing about TV is the people. There is a passion for TV that doesn’t exist in many professions. I saw it 30 years ago in my coworkers at KHBS and KARK, and I see it now with the people I work with at KATV. I’ve worked with so many talented people.
My advice for those considering a career in TV is: if you don’t love it, don’t pursue it.
Television is a crazy, but very rewarding, profession.