Television news lost another colorful pioneer last month when Art MacDonald died at the age of 82. He was part of a small staff that created the news operation for a start-up television station in Seattle.
It was the early 1950s when KOMO-TV went on the air. One of the first steps by its owners was to find a news director who would hire reporters and cameramen to staff the station’s first television newsroom.
They set a high standard. The man they wanted had to have impeccable credentials as a professional journalist. He had to be a person of high reputation who was familiar with the local scene. Of course, that meant they would be looking at the staffs of the two daily newspapers.
They had one important criterion if they were going to hire a newspaperman. If that were the case, then they wanted the “next Pulitzer Prize winner” as the first director of KOMO-TV News. They found him in Herb Robinson.
Robinson was a rising young star on the reporting staff of the Seattle Times. Indeed, he fit the managers’ criteria, except he had absolutely no on-air experience. And he was–despite his young age–becoming bald.
Even at that early stage of television news, personal “on-air” appearance was considered of vital importance. So Robinson was a reluctant recruit. He knew the drawbacks of entering a broadcasting field as a neophyte anchorman with a receding hairline.
But they talked him into it, and so Robinson set about establishing a newsroom operation from scratch. First, a staff. And that’s where Art MacDonald comes in.
Brash and engaging, MacDonald had his first on-air experience as a radio broadcasting student at Washington State University in Pullman. He may not have been the first staffer for the KOMO-TV newsroom, but he was undoubtedly the most productive.
MacDonald was what’s known as a self-starter. Needing little guidance and management, he and a cameraman would spend a day in the field and return with a half-dozen stories to be aired on Channel 4’s newscasts.
MacDonald became a pillar of Herb Robinson’s news operation. And as time went on, Robinson added other staffers whose productivity and on-air value created a news operation that prided itself on its professionalism and competitive spirit.
Others Robinson brought aboard included Howard Shuman whom he acquired from the brilliant KOMO radio news staff. Shuman proved to be equally adept in both radio and television newsrooms.
To cover sports events, Robinson brought in another former WSU student, Keith Jackson. He parlayed his experience on Channel 4 into a national reputation as an ABC-TV Sports broadcaster who launched Monday Night Football and became famous for anchoring college football telecasts.
Robinson found another scintillating on-air personality in Bruce Caldwell as the first Channel 4 weatherman. Caldwell won the audience with his friendly easy-going manner. His death in the crash of his private plane brought early sorrow to the fledging news operation.
Art MacDonald’s passing August 20 mean almost all are gone from those pioneering days when KOMO-TV news first went on the air.
Just three are left from the early Robinson years. Keith Jackson is still with us, retired and living in California. Howard Shuman retired to the shores of Lake Washington at Kirkland and is about to move to more comfortable quarters in Everett.
And yours truly, John Komen, is living the good life on Mason Lake, still conjuring up memories of that early TV newsroom in Seattle.
John Komen, a veteran of 40 years as a newsman, once served as news director and anchorman at Seattle’s KOMO-TV. He also is a former ABC-TV News correspondent based in New York. His career included 19 years at the News Tribune in Tacoma where he filled positions from editorial writer to editor. He now lives with Diane Sue Komen on Mason Lake.
(Mason County Journal)
VICTOR STREDICKE/ May 18, 1979 — A videodisc looks like a 12-inch phonograph record. But it’s silvery surface reflects like a rainbow. And when it is placed on a videodisc player, it plays picture, as well as sound. The Magnavision videodisc playing system was unveiled yesterday and went on sale today in three area stores. Magnavox calls it a “new wonder of consumer electronics.” Under development the past 8 years, the Magnavision system attaches to the antenna terminals of a television set. It scans the videodisc with a tiny beam of light, recapturing the movies and other filmed features stored on bits inside the silvery platter. There is no needle or stylus, thus Magnavox declares there is almost no wear on the disc no matter how many times it is played. Recent movie “Animal House” sells for $15.95. There are 200 movies in the Maganavox catalog. The player also allows the viewer to speed up, slow down, freeze and even reverse action.
December 22, 1963 – The Federal Communications Commission has approved licenses for two new area radio stations. KAGT, an Anacortes outlet which began broadcasting last week, features popular and semi-classical music from 6 a.m. until midnight on 1340 kilocycles. It will also air Anacortes High School basketball games.
KBRO, when it goes on the air, will be a full-time FM stereo station, programming dinner music and show tunes 18 hours a day. The outlet, owned by the Bremerton Broadcast Co., will have an effective radiated power of 30 kilowatts and will broadcast on 106.9 megacycles.
Veteran KVI air personality, Jack Morton died June 1st. Morton started his career at KMO Tacoma, then owned by his father Archie. Jack Morton was hired by KVI in 1963 and remained there well into the 1970s. Morton switched over to KOL for a period when KVI shuffled the deck chairs, and after returning to KVI and finally leaving AM 570, Morton did a stint at KRPM. Later, Jack Morton worked at KIXI. The format was more akin to the MOR style of the early KVI/Golden West Broadcasters years.
November 1979 – Michael O’Shea, former program director at KVI, has been named national program director of Golden West Broadcasters. The program director doesn’t direct any programs, anymore. He directs the talent, inspires them to do their best.
O’Shea’s challenge is to get the best performance out of such diverse personalities, for example, as Gary Owens and Don Drysdale, at KMPC Los Angeles and Bob Hardwick and Bob Robertson at KVI.
O’Shea came to KVI two and a half years ago from Fort Lauderdale Florida. He left KVI four months ago, lured away by the Los Angeles station, KPOL.
Steve West started in radio in Hoquiam. In 1967, West joined the KJR, becoming the all night disc-jockey and newsman. West was then hired by KTAC as Program Director. KTAC climbed to the top rated position in Pierce county, replacing nine year leader, KJR. West hired some great talent for KTAC, including Gary Crow. Pat O’Day countered West’s success [or rather “recognized” West’s talent] by offering Steve West the position of Program Director at KJRB Spokane. West returned to KJR in 1974 as PD there.
August 26, 1979 / Steve West has traded AM for FM and moved from KJR to sister-station KISW as its new general manager. He was assistant manager of KJR for three months. At the FM station, he replaces Harry Caraco who is moving to other areas of business. West has been with KJR for five years as program director. Before that he was program director at another Kaye-Smith station, KJRB in Spokane.
Edie Hilliard, general sales manager at KJR, will take over the additional duties of assistant manager there. She joined the station in 1975 as an account executive and in 1977 was named sales manager. Ms. Hilliard began with Kaye-Smith Radio in 1972 as the corporate promotions manager.
1922 It was a big year for broadcasting in Washington. The first radio station in the State of Washington was not located in Seattle or Tacoma, but in Spokane. 590 KAQQ, later KHQ, now KQNT, [Feb 28].
Next was Vincent Kraft’s experimental station, which became KJR, the first radio station for Seattle and Western Washington [Mar 9].
South Sound residents got their own station on March 30, as KGY 1240 began broadcasting. Those original call letters were used by the station until the Kerry family sold the station in 2014 to Sacred Heart Radio.
Tacoma’s KMO 1360 took to the airwaves on March 30. The station dropped those great call letters in 1984, for KAMT. The station later went with the call letters KKMO.
KTW 1250 Seattle started programming on April 22. The station is now KKDZ.
Finally, another station for Seattle on May 23, 1300 KDZE, which later became KOL. The station became KMPS in 1975, and was acquired by Salem in 1997, changing call letters to KKOL [not quite KOL].
This is Clif Kirk, the first anchorman for Eyewitness News, recording a promo for KIRO-TV’s Instant News camera. We were transitioning from 16mm film to portable video cameras. The recorder was attached via a cable to the camera. The camera was made by Ikegami. I’m just guessing at the model number, HL-1…The HL part is accurate and stood for Handy Looky!
source: Duane Smart