How I Got Started In TV

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

Many viewers ask me how I got into this business. The route I took probably shouldn't have worked, but it did.

I'm a little more than a month away from 20 years in commercial TV News.  I started my first job at KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas, on August 1st, 1989.   Wow did that go by fast.

As a teenager in Colorado Springs I remember watching TV news and thinking, "I could do that."  When it came time to leave Doherty High School and head off to college I had considered journalism, but I didn't know how to type...so I dismissed it.

I had 5 or 6 different majors in my time at CU, Boulder.  I finally settled on English (I'd always been an avid reader, and a willing writer, the two most important criteria for  BA in English)  I didn't really want to be a teacher and the options seemed limited.  So after graduation in May, 1988, I came back to the Springs and went to work as a doorman at The Dublin House just off Academy at Lehman.  I was a huge St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan ( this was before the Rockies) and I thought if I worked at a place that had satellite, I could see all the St. Louis Cardinals games. It was a good short-term plan.  

At the same time my sister and her husband were living in St. Louis.  They had seen commercials for a place there called Broadcast Center.  It offered a 1 year course in all aspects of broadcasting, and guaranteed a job in broadcasting to anyone who finished the program.  I signed up and moved in with sister and brother-in-law.  Again, I thought I could see some St. Louis Cardinals games! Broadcast Center did offer a lot, especially in terms of voice training and writing specifically for TV news.  Some of these skills do seem a little lacking in some new college grads from J-School programs, especially the voice work, so BC really did help me there.  Here's a strange twist.  My co-anchor on 11 news at 4, Betty Sexton, also went through the program at Broadcast Center, not at the same time I was there.

I finished the program in 9 months and was ready for a first job in TV news.  The BC wasn't particularly helpful with that, so I was kind of working on my own.  I had managed to snag a hosting job on a community affairs program for the biggest cable company in St. Louis. Using some of that, and some of the stuff I'd done at the school, I was able to put together a tape to send to TV stations.  At first I wanted to be a sportscaster, but someone wise told me there would be about 10 jobs in news for every job in sports.  News it would be!

I must have cold-called news directors at 75 stations all over the country, and I probably sent out 50 copies of that first tape.  Finally the news director at KXII-TV, Sherman, Texas, called me back. (It is such a big deal when a news director calls, they are notoriously busy, and almost never make calls or take calls, especially from beginners)  He said he liked my tape, realized I had some "real potential" and might be interested in giving me a shot. The Catch-22 - he couldn't hire me over the phone, and he wouldn't pay to fly me down.  Ball in my court.

I got some help from my parents for a plane ticket, called him back and told him it just so happened I was going to be in Sherman the following Friday.  I met with him, and some others at the station, went through a grueling 3- hour grilling (still the toughest I've ever had) and was told they'd be in touch.  A few days later he called and offered me the job of bureau reporter at the stations office in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  I was thrilled, I accepted immediately, agreed to the very small salary and started packing that day! 

The more traditional door into the business is through a broadcast journalism program in college.  It's probably easier to break in that way.  But I got in somehow, and I haven't looked back since.  I wouldn't recommend my route, but the fact that my degree is in English helped (you've most always got to have some degree), and the fact that I've always had a pretty natural ability to talk was a big factor.  I worked hard to finish that program in St. Louis and I worked even harder to get someone to give me that first chance.

Now I can't believe it worked, and that it was almost 20 years ago!

We'll talk again soon.

Don

 

 

 

 

 

Read More Blogs

KKTV firmly believes in freedom of speech for all and we are happy to provide this forum for the community to share opinions and facts. We ask that commenters keep it clean, keep it truthful, stay on topic and be responsible. Comments left here do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of KKTV 11 News.

If you believe that any of the comments on our site are inappropriate or offensive, please tell us by clicking “Report Abuse” and answering the questions that follow. We will review any reported comments promptly.

powered by Disqus
KKTV 520 E. Colorado Colorado Springs, CO 80903 Office: (719) 634-2844 Fax: (719) 632-0808 News Fax: (719) 634-3741
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability
Gray Television, Inc.