Louisville Magazine Article - March, 1967

News While It's Hot:
WKLO newsmen take to the air
any moment the news warrants

There wasn't much music played over Radio Station WKLO on February 1, 1966.

That was the day Louisville was hit with its worst snowstorm in 48 years. Businesses and schools closed, traffic came to a snarled-up standstill, and the city was in the middle of one of its biggest emergencies.

Into the breach jumped WKLO, with 17 hours of almost straight news broadcasting, providing continuous public service to listeners and reporting every event from giant industrial plan shutdowns to cancellations of card parties.

"Reporting the news is our main function," says News Director Allen Bryan, "getting it first, getting it right and putting it on the air fast. We're geared for speed and accuracy and our setup gives us a tremendous advantage over the other stations in town."

Any minute 24 hours a day is a deadline for WKLO's trained newsmen, who have the authority to stop the music at any time and take over the microphone with an important story, whether it be a local injury accident or a national event that warrants interruption of the disc jockeys. Their main function is to report "what is happening now" and then continue to follow it up.

This policy of complete and fast news coverage has earned the station the Number One rating for Louisville listeners by several national surveys.

"There's pressure on our men all the time," says Allen Bryan, who came here from Oklahoma in 1960 and was named news director in 1965.

"We're organized to cover every phase of City and County government and to work under tight timing. We can cover four important stories at one time and we have responsible check sources to back them up."

Five full-time and two part-time newsmen at WKLO are on duty from 5 a.m. to midnight every day in four- and five-hour shifts. Because of their wide experience, the station trusts their judgment to make their own decisions on the importance of events, to make them in a hurry, and to write and get the stories on the air fast.

Clacking away all day in a room in the studios at 307 West Walnut is a United Press International teletype, receiving national news. At the same time, all police and fire calls are being monitored and one man is recording telephone calls and taking down interviews.

WKLO's Traffic Alert System is an instantaneous service that constantly keeps motorists informed of injury accidents and expressway jams, urging drivers to avoid these areas. "Traffic Condition Red!" is a familiar bulletin 18 hours a day. During Louisville's first snowfall of 1967 on February 17, some 95 accident reports went on the air by noon, plus three special roundups per hour.

Outside newsman Bob Henry, director of special events, has a two-way radio in his car. He's noted for being first on the scene when news breaks. When an explosion ripped through the DuPont plant in August 1965 at 9:30 a.m. he led all other stations with a pin-point report at 9:38, followed by his eyewitness account which went out over the at 9:55 on the regular half-hour newscast.

In the meantime News Director Bryan had dispatched newsman Reed Yadon to the scene to set up a command post in a nearby house, and for two hours he was the reporter closest to the disaster. Bob Henry had gone in the blast area with the first fire company to arrive. His eyewitness description of the holocaust inside gave WKLO listeners an exclusive and dramatic account of the emergency, with newsmen Ken Knight and John Rode, assisted by Program Director Mitch Michael, rapidly editing his reports and racing them onto the air.

The fast, accurate reporting enabled the station's newsmen to give out 150 up-to-the-minutes stories to 35 stations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as to UPI, and it was besieged by long-distance calls for more details.

Bob Henry and his colleagues are on the scene too at every important civic meeting, running tape recorders. They cover Fiscal Court, the Board of Aldermen, the Mayor's Citizens; Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Sewer District Bard and the Louisville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, to mention just a few.

Because of the contacts Bob's established, he is able to get many exclusive interviews with officials where other reporters fail. He's right on the scene at major conventions in town, and gives full coverage of the City, County and Catholic school board sessions.

In order to give citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions on controversial subjects, Bob Henry conducts the popular program "Question Man." Public opinions on everything from higher hemlines to birth control are on the air five days a week.

Six portable tape recorders are in constant use by the WKLO newsmen. The station uses more than 4,000 tape excerpts a year. Four minutes of a live interview may be chosen out of an original 45 minutes. Editing by the newsmen is sharp, to the point, and lively. First importance is placed on what is of top interest locally, Allen Bryan says.

Broadcasting of the news begins at 5 a.m. every day, with two full five-minute newscasts every hour until 9 a.m., the period when the station hits its highest peak of adult listeners. News is then presented once an hour until 3 p.m., and then again twice an hour until 6 p.m. From then until five the next morning, newsmen break it only if a story warrants.

The biggest teen audience is tuned in during the evenings. Every Sunday a special 30-minute program of straight news, covering world-wide events and top local stories, goes out on the air at 8:30 a.m.

Public service is the watchword at WKLO. For its close cooperation with fire officials, including 25 volunteer departments, the station recently received two awards. A special broadcast, Derbytown Date Book, comes on the air every hour, announcing a calendar of non-profit community events of the day. The station has its own hotline for school officials and is first out with news of closing due to bad weather and changes of schedules. Its live coverage of the last election from six different pick-up points gave listeners the final results seconds after tabulations were completed.

WKLO is licensed to Mid-America Broadcasting, Inc. and went on the air in the late 1940s. Charles Sawyer, Cincinnati, is president and Ernest A. Gudridge is vice-president and general manager.

Big story or small, the veteran seven-man news team, backed up by responsible check sources, daily covers all news of interest in Kentuckiana, and not only get the stories out first, but gets them right.

Related Links

Allen Bryan News Director Q & A
Allen Bryan Audio Interview
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 1
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 2
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 3
Late 60s News Flyer- Page 4