In the 1970s, Knoxville boasted a much more vibrant and competitive radio news marketplace than we have today. Two radio stations — WATE AM and WBIR AM-FM — drew considerable content from their related TV news gathering operations. WNOX (powered by Ron Ashburn), WRJZ (Lisa McNeill) and WIVK had wonderful independent newsroom operations. Any major news conference would see at least a half-dozen mic flags on the podium.
The passing of former Knoxville Mayor Kyle Testerman presents a good time to reflect on how skillfully Testerman and his administration developed relationships with the TV and radio news operations. Kyle had several key administrators who understood how TV and radio could shape public opinion. Safety Director Duane Ausetts and spokesman Chuck Storey, city PIO's Bill Booher and Guy Smith IV, Fire Chief Howard Shoffner, and Finance Director Gill White were probably Knoxville's first truly media-savvy city administrators.
Kyle and his crew knew how to get their message out. They used personal relationships and spent time developing them at local media hang-outs. Harold's kosher deli on Gay Street (where Gleela ran the downstairs dining room); the old L&N Hotel grill across from what is now the STEM academy; and Regas were great places to visit with Testerman, Ausetts, and other administrators.
While Testerman was a great communicator, he also surrounded himself with others adept at working with the media. I am confident Knoxville's Fire Department has a quite serviceable spokesman these days. However, nothing was any better than an interview with Deputy Chiefs Clyde "Pip" Parker or Bill Potter, or Assistant Chiefs Alva Harmon or Lee Hickey or Curtis Hansard. Nothing will ever be better than getting the facts straight from a real-deal smoke-eating fire department leader (as they took a long drag on a Camel cigarette).
Today's pastoral after-the-fact interviews at spot news events just "don't have it." They're missing the distinctive background sounds courtesy of Sutphen or Ward-LaFrance equipment. Parker and Potter and Harmon et al have been replaced with a PIO. And, I posit, audiences are poorer because of these changes.
Post via~ Art Miller was a radio and TV news reporter and now is a Hollywood railroad coordinator and railroad safety/training manager.