Stations are continuously on the hunt for enterprise journalism, the more original the better, and one such opportunity recently knocked on the door of KCPQ Seattle. Pam Pearson, VP and general manager of KCPQ-KZJO, got a call from a Seattle media colleague who caught wind of a project involving the veteran war reporter Joe Galloway. To mark the 50th anniversary of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, Galloway, himself a veteran, was traveling the country to record interviews with fellow Vietnam vets, to be archived in the Library of Congress.
Galloway was looking for a studio operation in Seattle for some help, Pearson was told by Mike Flynn, former publisher and editor of Puget Sound Business Journal, and the Tribune operation certainly had that. “I realized right away that it was an important news story,” says Pearson. “Additionally, it was a very important service to our community.”
Galloway recorded 15 interviews with Seattle area veterans—and sat for his own Q&A with “Q13” talent that aired on KCPQ in mid April. “I can’t let their experiences just go—that’s not in me,” Galloway told the camera about his motivation to record the veterans. “This is letting them tell their stories.”
Along with being a veteran, Galloway, who could not be reached for comment, was a war correspondent for United Press International (UPI), and reported on the first major battle between U.S. forces and their North Vietnamese counterparts at Ia Drang in 1965. He later co-authored We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, which was turned into the 2002 film We Were Soldiers. “I hope this will be a body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about,” Galloway told KCPQ.
Following the April 13 clip of Galloway, the Fox affiliate will air the segments featuring Pacific Northwest war heroes May 10-15. One profiled veteran is Bruce Crandall, a native of Olympia, Wash., and a helicopter pilot who was a hero of Galloway’s book and the movie (he was played by Greg Kinnear) thanks to delivering critical supplies and helping evacuate wounded soldiers during the bloody Ia Drang battle.
“They want to share their stories,” KCPQ anchor Matt Lorch told viewers at the end of the segment. “We are honored to share them with you.”
Galloway has a trust factor with the war heroes that few can match. “He’s been there and he knows what it’s like,” says Pearson. “No one else can interview [ veterans] like Joe Galloway.”
For Chad Bailey, chief photographer at KCPQ, spending a week shooting the segments resulted in a mix of chills, laughs, and frequently getting choked up. “It was quite an intense week that I will remember forever,” he says. “It was an honor for me to work with these guys.”
Some TV stations have done their part to make up for the rude reception many Vietnam veterans got upon returning home. Five years ago, Wisconsin Public Television threw a major homecoming party for Vietnam vets, and produced a documentary on local war heroes (“Station to Station,” March 12, 2010).
During a monthly Tribune general manager’s meeting, Pearson mentioned the project, and told her fellow GMs that Galloway might be coming to their market, looking for a video production partner—which offered a unique content opportunity. “I said, ‘Important news is walking right into your studio,’” she says. “When does that happen?”
It’s too early in the process for other Tribune stations to declare specific plans. But Pearson says the reaction on the GM call was emphatic, and Bart Feder, Tribune senior VP of news, endorses the local vets project as well.
“Q13’s initiative has highlighted the compelling stories of our Vietnam vets and how important it is that we recognize their valor in war, their contribution to our communities and the challenges many still face,” he said via email. “Seattle’s commitment is certainly getting attention from our group’s news directors, all of whom have expressed interest in exploring projects in their markets.”
Pearson sees Galloway’s commemoration initiative as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the veterans who famously did not receive much gratitude for their service in the unpopular conflict. She hopes the project will impact viewers the way it has impacted her. “You can’t help but be moved,” she says. “We’re honored to be a part of it.”
BALTIMORE STATIONS STAY BUSY AMID CLASHES
The Baltimore TV stations were live for much of the protests and rioting that broke out following the Freddie Gray funeral service. The coverage went from peaceful protests to riots, and then to the massive cleanup as the city aims to return to tranquility.
While some criticized the national nets for fanning the flames, The Washington Post gave WBAL and WJZ high marks for their talent’s local savvy and measured demeanor. News managers say police were helpful in establishing and communicating boundaries for the news gatherers to do their work. One was not so lucky—Keith Daniels, veteran reporter at Sinclair’s WBFF, was hit with tear gas while on the air. He attempted to finish the live shot despite the setback.
WMAR captured video of a woman, Toya Graham, repeatedly smacking her teen son after witnessing him throw rocks at police, which went viral on multiple ABC affiliates. Graham appeared on CBS This Morning April 29.
Baltimore news veterans, sensitive to those who see the city as synonymous with drugs and crime, hope the image of residents, brooms in hand for the cleanup, emerges as a lasting one. “This is not our community,” says Dan Joerres, WBAL president/general manager. “This is not the way we operate.”