John Holt currently works as an Anchor at WDAF-TV FOX4 in its 5, 6, and 9pm show as a Special Projects Reporter. With both his rich experience in the TV News Industry and his passion for reporting, he hopes to inspire, inform, and engage people through the wonderful powers of storytelling. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1981 with a degree in Journalism and again in 1984 from KU’s School of Law.
My broadcasting break came… in high school.
That’s right. High school. As an editor of “Panther Tales,” the student newspaper at Great Bend (KS) High School, I was part of a once-a-week radio show on the local AM station: “Panther Parade”. We dished about school news, played a few records (yes, records…45’s to be exact), and loved every 15 minutes of it. And so, I had fallen in love with broadcasting.
Unbeknownst to me, the general manager of the radio station had been listening, and he loved my presence and voice (glad I didn’t know he was tuning in, I would have been a nervous mess)!
He offered me a part-time job helping to launch a new easy listening automated FM signal. On the job, I would record brief news and weather segments and check off when commercials played
. This was an opportunity that I could not let pass, even if it meant hours of listening to orchestral versions of popular songs my parents loved – a teenage penance I was willing to pay to launch my career.
Eventually, I was reading live newscasts, obituaries, and farm market reports on the AM side of the studios (sounding like I actually knew the difference between a Barrow and a Gilt)! In my small town, I had struck mentorship and discovered that, while I wasn’t an athlete or even a scholar, I had the gift of radio gab.
And I knew the market presented attractive opportunities for me.
OPPORTUNITIES ARE A BRIDGE BETWEEN YOUR GOALS & YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
I share this opportunity with students as a reminder that you just never know when your “break” may come, be it in journalism or engineering or medicine or whatever. Opportunities are meant to be taken for no other reason than to understand where your passion lies.
The experience gained in that small-town radio station over a year or two paid off when I knocked on the door at KLWN-KLZR upon arriving at the University of Kansas. Enough knocking, that the program director of the Lawrence-based radio stations finally called with another opportunity: a graveyard shift on Saturday nights, commencing at midnight.
Not exactly great for one’s college social life, but who was I to quibble? Of course, I took it, knowing my true goal was to get into the radio station’s newsroom. Eventually, I managed to talk my way into some reporting opportunities. Remember that “gift of gab?”
The experience again paid off when, during my junior year at KU’s School of Journalism, I applied for a scholarship/internship at WIBW-AM- FM-TV in Topeka, Kansas. Having radio gigs on my resume helped open a new door, and that summer I embarked on the new love of my life: television news.
FINDING OUT WHAT YOUR PASSIONS ARE PAYS OFF IN THE LONG-RUN
Topeka offers a small market where youth is no obstacle to shooting, writing, and editing stories. Stories that eventually make it on-air (with the sig out “Reporting for WIBW, I’m Summer Intern John Holt,” fair warning to viewers let there be any work product issues)!
That summer internship would then lead to a part-time job during my senior year of college. The job included everything I loved: anchoring radio and television newscasts, as well as reporting.
And when, fast-forwarding to my third year in law school, the station’s 10pm anchor left, I was given another opportunity: to take over the show and be guaranteed my first post-graduate school job. While I loved the law, I knew my passion remained in journalism. My love for journalism was simply too powerful for me to even think about leaving it behind.
Each opportunity would lead to more: from storytelling from the anchor desk to reporting directly from the field to covering breaking news, politics, even sports.
And to think it all began with a 15-minute, small town, high-school radio show.
I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of it without the mentors who helped me find meaning in the long hours, missed holidays and events, and work ethic that would be required to succeed in the journalism industry.
I’ve never looked back. I still love what I do each and every day. I mastered the difference between a Barrow and a Gilt. And all these years later, so much more.