KQTV-TV 2 (ABC) in St. Joseph, Missouri
On August 8, 1989 I loaded all the worldly possessions I could fit into my 1982 Chevy Monte Carlo (with no air conditioning) and set off across the country to begin the adventure of a lifetime, a career as a broadcast journalist, first stop KQTV-TV 2 St. Joseph, Missouri.
Pony Express Statue in downtown St. Joe
St. Joe is known for two things, the Pony Express started there and Jessie James ended there. I was making $12,000 a year yet there was still a part of me that couldn’t believe I was actually getting paid to do this for a living (or something close to a living.) I flew out for the interview from Philadelphia on my own dime, the station put me up in the Holiday Inn one night and I had to pay for the other night.
A FISH OUT OF WOOD-ER.
I came to St. Joe as a 23 year-old with a thick Philadelphia accent who had never stepped foot on a farm but I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my career. The Midwest was the perfect place to take a coarse piece of sand paper to that very rough accent. I remember doing a story on a drought and talking about the lack of “wooder” (what Philluffians call water) and people seriously had no idea what I was saying.
My co-workers getting a laugh shooting me checking a cow.
KQ2 forced me to become a quick study on everything having to do with life in the Midwest and that meant reporting on every farm story imaginable. I even once did a story on how to prevent your cattle from being rustled. (Seriously, I even had a full screen graphic with tips like changing feeding times and feeding locations, making sure they’re back not near the road.) Speaking of feeding…
Royals Stadium (as it was known then) pic from press box Aug. 1989
THANK YOU KANSAS CITY ROYALS FOR FEEDING ME
Making 12-grand a year and having no family around meant making ends meet anyway you could. St. Joe is located about an hour North of Kansas City and at the station we had press passes for the Kansas City Royals. On Sundays I would grab the passes and gear and go down to shoot postgame interviews for sports and catch the game. I did this in part because I love baseball but the bigger reason was the on Sundays the Royals would put out a hot brunch for the media like you wouldn’t believe. It was my one big meal a week. They even had a free open bar, not that I ever took advantage of it. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
Me & George Brett
THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS ON THE OTHER HAND…
Pic I took from endzone Fall 1989
The Chiefs didn’t feed well at all, just cold hot dogs and a bag of chips. That didn’t matter to me though I was roving the sidelines of the NFL and loving life. In addition it was a touch of home for me because the Quarterback was Ron Jaworski who led my Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XV, the running backs coach was Bruce Arians who just left Temple University where I went to college and the GM was Carl Peterson who was the GM of the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL. When I was in high school in Philly I had a tv sports show “Sports Script” and the Stars gave me press access so Carl was one of the first sports people I had ever interviewed. Oh yeah the head coach was that Schottenheimer guy and two of his assistants that year were Bill Cowher & Tony Dungy.
Carl Peterson & Marty Schottenheimer
THE ADVANTAGE OF STARTING OUT HALF WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Why am I wearing sunglasses? I'm sure I had a good reason.
There’s something to be said for having your first job being out of the watchful eyes of family and friends. All they will ever see of your first job is what you select to tape and send home for them to see, the blooper tape material stays hidden and believe me there was alot of it. (Today unfortunately for kids starting off most of what we do now lives forever on youtube.)
It was a good mindset to have in a small market. One day I was editing my story and the News Director Dave Tillery knocked on the edit bay and asked if I ever thought about trying weather? I said yeah sure. He said “how about tonight.” The main weather guy was sick, the backup and the backup to the backup were away. I figured if I crash and burn who will ever know, I ended doing it, loving it and it’s experience I drew upon in Atlantic City and in Buffalo where I was pressed into weather duties by similar circumstances.
SO MUCH HAS CHANGED
A new reporter today wouldn’t recognize the newsroom of 20 years ago. No internet, heck no computers we used those computer keyboard like things called typewriters. (They were at least electric.) The above pic shows anchor Sherry Kurtz typing away while Anchor/Producer Randy Parlett checked the wires for stories. We shot and edited all of our own stories using 3/4″ equiptment that with battery belts and tripod equaled the weight of a small boat anchor. Also check out the rotary dial phone on the assignment desk. No cell phones just 2-way radios and change for the payphone.
THANK YOU SENATOR JOHN DANFORTH
The difficult thing about shooting your own stories is getting the interviewee not to look directly into the camera at you as they answer the question you throw at them from behind the camera. You’d tell people to look off to the side but they very often didn’t get it. The first time I interviewed former U.S. John Danforth (above) he not only got it, he said let me take that for you and grabbed the microphone, he looked at me as I asked the question and then answered it off into space as if I wasn’t a one-man band.
KQTV Newsroom Sports Director John Baccala, News Director Dave Tillery & Meteorologist Mike Bracciano
DO YOU WANT BATTERIES WITH THAT
Behind the station there was a mall and in an effort to make ends meet on 12K I walked into the Kay Bee Toy Store one day and told them I used to work for Kay Bee in college and if they’d pay me what I was making at Kay Bee in Philadelphia (which I think was more than what I was making as weekend anchor) I’d work for them over the holidays. They said okay so on my days off I sold toys. St. Joe was a one station town so everyone watched KQ2 so it was funny to see the looks of people…’aren’t you?’ And I’d say “yep – do you want batteries with that.”
My first apartment (rent was so much I couldn't afford furniture)
My apartment was nice but I moved out to Missouri only with what I could fit in my ’82 Monte Carlo (and it was packed.) On 12K my check went to rent leaving little money for furniture. I bought a bed and a card table then luckilly a hotel in town was renovating and I bought that ugly brown chair above and another for $5 apiece.
The balloons were from my going away party. After 10 months in St. Joe I was offered a job as weekend anchor in Atlantic City. (The Atlantic City years to come in a future post.) My education was complete I was going home but I wouldn’t have traded my time there for anything.