It's unusual to spend an entire news career at one television station. Journalists tend to be fairly nomadic folks, traveling from one place to another, to better jobs in bigger markets for higher pay. But I was fortunate to begin and end my career in TV news at WAVE 3, a station with a tremendous reputation for local news and community service.
News Director Larry Pond gave me my start in TV news in September 1978 when he hired me to be the Hardin County Bureau Reporter in Elizabethtown. I was what they called a "one man band" – a combination reporter and photographer. I enterprised my own stories and covered events in Hardin and surrounding counties as well as Fort Knox. After the 1979 Kentucky Governor's race, when I followed John Y. Brown and Louie Nunn all over western Kentucky, the station changed my title to West Kentucky Reporter. I guess it looked a little silly for the Hardin County reporter to be covering news in Paducah.
I stayed at WAVE 3 for nearly 33 years, but I wouldn't have lasted 33 days without my mentor and close friend Ferrell Wellman. He was our Frankfort/Political reporter, and like me, he was a "one man band." He taught me (and countless others) how to be a better journalist. To this day, I am convinced he was the best television news reporter of his era in Kentucky. He is now host of KET's Comment on Kentucky.
When I started at WAVE 3, I was proud to work with news anchors Livingston Gilbert and Melissa Forsythe, with Ryan Halloran and Bob Kay and farm director Jack Crowner. Meteorologist Tom Wills had only been at the station a few years when I started working there.
I was the last reporter to shoot 16 mm news film at WAVE 3. That's when everyone was switching to videotape.
As a reporter, I've been up in hot air balloons and down in underground coal mines covering the news. I've ridden in Army tanks and on farm tractors. I covered the surprisingly rapid transition on Kentucky farms from hand-tied tobacco to burley sold in bales, to the near-disappearance of tobacco auctions at small town warehouses on a cold December morning.
After nearly eight years in the field, news director Ed Godfrey promoted (???) me to Assignment Editor; in my opinion the toughest and most thankless job in TV news. For twelve years I helped coordinate all the reporters and photographers to cover the news of the day for the nightly broadcasts.
Two of the biggest local stories during that time were the September 1989 mass shooting at the Standard Gravure Company on Broadway, one of the nation's worst-ever workplace shootings, which left eight employees and the shooter dead, and the Carroll County bus crash the year before which killed 27 people in what was perhaps the nation's worst-ever drunk driving crash. The bus was from a church in Radcliff, KY, just north of Elizabethtown where I lived. I knew one of the adults on the bus who died and my daughter knew some of the children. They were returning from a church-sponsored trip to Kings Island when a drunk driver, going the wrong way on Interstate 71, crashed head-on into the bus, which immediately burst into flames. The tragedy led to many of the safety measures we now see on school buses in Kentucky.
After I was named Assistant News Director in 1997, I was chosen on two occasions to serve as the field producer for three Louisville TV stations when the Kentucky Air National Guard was sent on humanitarian missions to Somalia (1993) and Rwanda (1994).
When I retired on July 1, 2011, I had worked with many of the best local news anchors, reporters, photographers, producers and editors in the business. They were like family. Most of them are still friends. I served with seven outstanding News Directors: Larry Pond, Ed Godfrey, Kathy Beck, Chris Jaddick, Jeff Hoffman (2 times), Lee Eldridge and Kathy Hostetter. And I am forever indebted to former General Manager Steve Langford for his support and willingness to listen to my occasional dissenting voice; it made for a healthier and happier workplace. I will fondly remember my years at WAVE 3. I am proud to say I worked there.