Insights on running Newscenter 25

On that hot July day back in 1982-Newscenter 25 hit the air. From day one the star station wanted to be known as the place for good news…a place known for an honest newscast. But how does a news department come together? And who makes the ultimate decisions on why stories get covered? We sit down with two news directors who share their perspective on leading a news organization.
Jeff Williams says,”we knew that we had to cover news that impact the people that are watching.” The first news team introduced Victoria to Newscenter 25 on July 21 1982. Dr. Ruth Constant remembers selecting the first News Director, “david webb was our first news director and david had the experience and background…” The news director hires news staff and set the coverage goals for the news department. But in 1986 a young aspiring sports reporter walked into the then NBC affiliate and made a simple request. “…thanks to don brubaker actually saying i need a part time sports reporter…i went to him and said can ya’ll find anything.” Five years later Jeff Williams would become KAVU’s first African American News Director, “scary… i guess on one hand the thing i had going for me is that i worked under mike sizemore and he taught me an awful lot.”

Mike Sizemore came to KAVU in the mid-eighties, “my attitude as a television news director was we need to be as good as anybody in the country, it doesn’t matter we’re in a small market.” The Executive Producer turned News Director and Anchor covered politics, “our state senator at the time ken armbrister arrived on set at two minutes to six one day, i explained to the good senator that i have to be in that anchor chair in about 90 seconds so what’d ya need and he offered me a job.”

Politics and the allure of state government took Sizemore from the newsroom to the Texas state house. And now with Sizemore gone–Newscenter 25 needed a new leader, “when mike sizemore left the owner of the station came in and said you’re the new news director.”

An unexpected turn of events that put Williams in the News Director chair, “I knew that I was forging some roads that had never been traveled before. I definitely appreciate the fact we see today ya know how society is today I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me so that I could be somewhat of a role model to the younger african americans that are coming up now.’

The truly tough part of the job is deciding which stories make it on air, “we used to get these phone calls from people with these great stories why aren’t you covering these great stories..ya know it was like i’d have to explain to them that i don’t see the news value in that.”

But how do we determine the news value of story? Williams says, “the fundamentals of your community which still should be and news story should be what’s the city council doing, what are they doing with our tax dollars, what’s the county commissioners court doing what’s going on with local political races.”

Williams remembers a particarlly tough situation, the shooting of Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Bill Davidson “that happened on a Saturday afternoon, I was not at work, U got a page…we had pagers back then I didn’t get a call I got a page, from my news anchor at the time Glen Selick who said you know we had this incident a DPS Trooper has been shot he’s not dead at the time when he made the call to me, I said you know what…he wanted to do a cut in and letting people know that this had happened, and I approved the cut-in of the broadcast of regular programing…”

Because of that broadcast, the community was put on notice that the suspect in the Trooper Davidson shooting was still at large. But from Williams perspective, that decision also came with a heavy consquence, “months after that i had to meeting with his widow…” “her beef with me was that she found out on the news when we did the cut in although we did not give the name she knew her husband patrolled that area by the time they were knocking on the door she had already receive the news and so that was pretty tough.”