Friday, December 28, 2007

RADIO NEWS DAZE..I Become a KLIF Newsman

While I worked all nights at KNUS, Ken Dowe, the KLIF Program Director decided that I should do double duty as a DJ on KNUS FM and as a news person (news reader)on KLIF AM with a modest increase in pay.

KLIF had newscasts on the top of the hour and at the half hour then.
I had to time the records being played on KNUS to be long enough at those times to do a 5 minute newscast on the top of the hour and a one minute news headline report on the half hour on KLIF. I was off the night shift when McLendon went to the
"20-20" news format, with newscasts at 20 and 40 minutes of the hour on KLIF AM. That would have been trickier in timing records during the news.
This was strictly a rip and read news cast at the top and bottom of the hour.
I took news copy off of the UPI teletype machine and ran to the microphone in time to be there and ready to go on the news sounder that the KLIF DJ would run.
It was all a cold read live on the air. I didn't proof read before I read the newscast. I didn't have time.

The written newswire stories that we relied on for national and world news came from the venerable Associated Press and United Press International. The news editors there manually typed in the story copy and it came down the telephone line to news typewriter printers in countless newsrooms across the world.

The old newswire teletype machines were something to behold when they were typing out news stories seemingly automatically. They were limited in speed by the news service's editor-typists speed and accuracy. They sounded like a fast manual typewriter. No computerization here. They were slave typewriters, with a poltergeistly ghost typist. The news wire's typewriter carriages noisily moved back and forth and up and down automatically as stories were coming in and as the news copy went from capital letters to uncapitalized and spaces were added between words.

Their sound as they printed each individual word and each individual letter with punctuation reminded me of a slightly out of tune car engine with out of adjustment valves. When they were between stories or sentences in stories, they kept running at an idle speed with a moderate click, click, click, click like a crazed maracas player on a typewriter or a marathon runner trying to catch his breath. Hearing the news wires running as I worked in the newsroom was a uniquely pleasant sound that I miss to this day.

They were replaced by the first computerized printers that put the words on pressure sensitive paper rolls. You know, the kind of paper that you can run a fingernail across it and it will leave a line. It just wasn't the same to hear the computerized printer buzzing and zipping back and forth across the lines of the story it was printing. It was the end of the line for an era of radio history.

U.P.I. and A.P sometimes got the stories wrong or garbled. During a newscast that was reported on the Detroit riots, UPI juxtaposed inportant parts of two stories. You can imagine how I sounded as I read from the UPI wire copy and confidently read cold from the 1969 UPI story that, "A riot in Detroit today was broken up by a Division of North Vietnamese Regulars." But, I didn't even pause or break my delivery stride. I still have the UPI machine news copy that came across wrong.

I also happened to be at the right place at the right time when news stories broke. I was at the Executive Inn Hotel restaurant across from Love Field when poice charged in and arrested the man two booths over. I had never seen so many guns in my life. He had been sought by police for several years and was a cat burglar who police and the media nicknamed, the "King of Diamonds."

I also was driving on Lemmon Avenue by Love Field, when I saw a Braniff Airliner coming in for a landing with its landing gear up. I thought to myself, "This is going to be good." (but in a bad way, of course.)I had the news instinct even then. It turned out that there was hydraulic failure, and the plane landed with flying sparks and a big grinding noise. Lots of smoke and noise, but it made a good on the scene report. I happened to be on the scene for several other news worthy events, and called in reports on the newsroom hotline.

The News Director was suitably impressed with my on air delivery and dumb luck of being at the right place at the right time, and offered a weekend news shift on Saturday and Sunday. I needed the money,so, I took it. This was a different type of newscast. I became a news reporter/writer/editor, I had to gather, write, rewrite, and edit the news stories on one of the the old manual typewriters in the newsroom.

I also monitored the police radio scanners for police news. Dallas had four geographical substation divisions. In the newsroom, there were monitor speakers at the ceiling of each of the corners of the room whose locations corresponded with the north, south, east and west substation locations. It was really easy to listen to the police calls all at once and just tune in to the police calls that were relevant to our type of street beat news. We crisscrossed the address given to police units and got the phone numbers to call for eyewitness accounts of what had happened.

Gordon McLendon's father, B.R. McLendon was the money man behind the start of KLIF and the McLendon Broadcasting dynasty. He also listened to the station. I was approached by the news director of KLIF, who at the time was Mike Hyatt. He told me that B.R. had heard a newscast I did, and B.R. wanted me to be a fulltime newsman at KLIF. I was offered about four times what I was making at KNUS.

I talked to my boss at KNUS, Mike Selden, and told him of the offer at sister station KLIF. Mike told me that he could never match the offer, let alone better it.
It was decision time. Keep a job that I loved, playing records on the radio, being in the rock and roll world, and being a D.J., and they were actually paying me to do it. Or, take a new career direction and be a full time news man on the number one rated station in Dallas. I loved doing news too. I couldn't go wrong by staying where I was or going full time news.
I stayed with KNUS, which fortunately opened up many doors for me in the future.

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