I'm Just Sayin'
Random Thoughts from a Random Guy

Sweet Home, Alabama…

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Anchoring at WOWL in early 1999.

I had never heard of Florence, Alabama until October 1997. It was the home of WOWL-TV. I had decided to mail a resume tape there because of a job opening I saw on Medialine. I almost didn’t apply, because it was market 80 something and most people in the business start off much smaller. But I had been sending tapes literally all over the country and thought I’d give it a try.

Less than a week later, I got a call from the news director. He wanted me to drive down and do an interview. I was so excited. I had been working at KMOV in St. Louis at the time as a part time production assistant. I really wanted to be a reporter and for the previous year I had been sending out resume tapes and applying just about anywhere.

So Lisa and I headed down to Florence, Alabama (which is in the northwest corner of the state, about 70 miles west of Huntsville and is technically part of that market). We arrived in town right before the 6 p.m. news. The news director, Todd Napier, also anchored the show. He had told me if I got to town early enough to stop by the station and we’d go to dinner. The actual interview was going to be the next morning.

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WOWL's mascot

 

So I got there on time, got the grand tour, and we went to a great little Italian place in the downtown area. I can not remember the name of that place though. Anyway, we discussed my goals, why I wanted to report, and what I had expected to be paid. I knew from applying at other stations starting salaries were low. Most listed the starting pay between $17,000 and $20,000. So I told him $18,000. He followed up and said, “We can offer you $12,000.” I think my jaw probably hit my plate of pasta, but this was something I had wanted and worked for for so long. I got back to the hotel and discussed it with Lisa (we had only been married about 6 months at this point) and she told me to go for it. It was my dream afterall.

Of course, Todd hadn’t offered me the job yet. I went back home and kept sending out tapes, just in case. I had interviewed at a few other stations, and those didn’t result in the much wanted and needed job. A few days later, he did call and offered me the position. One man band reporter (that means you shoot, write, and edit everything on your own) He also told me I’d be helping with producing and filling in as an anchor. Too cool!

WOWL, or the OWL, was a great place to learn the basics. And I learned a lot when I walked into that newsroom on November 3, 1997. In the weeks after starting there I was shooting and editing, reporting, producing, and even filling in on the anchor desk.

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A cool image I found online.

Let me tell you some things about the station though. It was not like any other station I had seen at that point. The station did not have station vehicles. We drove our own cars and got paid for the mileage. The station had no live truck. No computer (we used type writers). No AP wire. The TelePrompter was a conveyor belt with a camera pointing down. The scripts were taped to it and rolled under the camera.

My first night anchoring, I was so incredibly nervous. It was Thanksgiving night, 1997. I had stumbled through the show and made it to the kicker (the last story) and screwed up the introduction. I went “blaaaahhhaaaa” and then started laughing. I assumed at that point that they had started the video tape, but I heard the sports guy, Eddie, whisper “You’re still on” I couldn’t contain and they finally rolled the tape. Believe it or not after that, they still allowed me to anchor again.

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Quite the ladies' man. 🙂 Hanging on the anchor desk in 1998.

I had lots of other adventures at the OWL. After about six months there, I moved into the news director position. We had a skeleton crew, four reporters, a sports anchor, a part time sports reporter, and a part time weather guy. Slim pickins for sure. But I wouldn’t trade those 10 hour days, crappy pay, and angry calls for anything. Eventually, the station owners changed the network affiliation from NBC to UPN, which didn’t carry news. So, you guessed it. In June 1999, the axe fell and the remaining members of the news department became casualties. I rebounded and ended up in West Lafayette, Indiana, but that’s a story for another time.

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12 years later, arriving on the set at WSIL in style. 🙂

A dozen years later, here I am, still in the biz. I never thought I’d last. I credit the support of my loving wife for that. Also two other TV stations who were willing to give me a chance. I appreciate my family, my coworkers, and my viewers. Thanks for the support and the love.

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One Response to “Sweet Home, Alabama…”

  1. Congrats on your 12 years, Kevin! The rest of us are ALL out of the business and have been for quite some time. It’s quite an accomplishment to have made it this far. By the way, the Italian place is Ricatoni’s and it’s still here and delicious! You, Lisa and the kids should come visit Florence and we’ll all go to dinner there.


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