Senator McCaskill honors Bob Priddy

“He’s a journalist and I’m a politician and if you’re a journalist then you don’t make friends with politicians. You keep your distance because you have to be objective and you have to be willing to ask questions that you know is going to irritate them.”

Apart from the tribute video (and Bob), there was only one speaker at Bob Priddy’s retirement dinner this past Monday. U. S. Senator Claire McCaskill. She was very good.

For those who know Bob and couldn’t be at the event, you can watch it here.

Bob Priddy: How it began

In December (2014) Bob Priddy will retire from his job as news director of The Missourinet. The network’s first and only news director. In this interview Bob talks about how the network began; interesting people and big stories; politics and history. I was privileged to work with Bob for almost 30 years and he’s one of the most talented and interesting people I’ve met. The interview runs just under half an hour. Hardly enough time to reflect on his amazing career.

Bob Priddy gets props from national news org

My friend and colleague Bob Priddy received some much deserved recognition at the opening session of the the Radio Television Digital News Assn/National Assn of Broadcasters annual meeting.

Bob, a 27-year member of the RTDNA board, is stepping down this year and they gave him not one, but TWO awards. The John Hogan Award, named for the founder of RTDNA, is given for distinguished service to the organization. The second award, the newly introduced Bob Priddy award, was presented to Priddy and will now be given to board members who exemplify Priddy’s distinguished and consistent service to RTDNA.

Bob is probably the best reporter I’ve ever met. More importantly, he is one of the best people I have ever met.

“Taking a break from the news”

The following anecdote won’t mean much to anyone who has never worked at a small town radio station covering local news stories. And I don’t share this to embarrass or disparage anyone still doing so. It’s just a sign of the times.

One of our network reporters called an affiliate in a small town, asking for a feed of a story about a bank robbery and the capture (and tasing) of the stickup guy. Our reporter was informed the station news person was on vacation and since they couldn’t find anyone to do the news in his absence, “they’re taking a break from the news this week.” Our reporter’s reaction?

“The bridge is too far away for me to walk to it and jump.  Our bluffs are not high enough to guarantee a fatal descent if I were hurl myself off one of them and I do not want to spend years as a paraplegic watching for more of these signs.   My Norelco razor will not cut through any arteries and the only scissors I am allowed to have are the school scissors my children left behind when they grew up.

My only recourse is to continue working in this industry until it reduces me to complete incoherence, upon which time I can be placed in a padded room where I shall be safe from the apocalypse.”

Philosopher and poet-journo Bob Priddy:

“Radio began to lose its soul when stations became “properties,” when communities became “markets,” and when staff became “human resources.”

Learfield’s “kitchen conference room”

Learfield McCarty Street

When I started at Learfield Communications in 1984, the business was operated from a 3-story brick house on McCarty Street in Jefferson City, MO. The rooms were jammed with desks and partitions and the kitchen was the “common area.” In this photo (below), you see Clyde, Clarice Brown, Bob Priddy (all still with us) and a few others.

McCarty St Kitchen

This image captures that time very well. There was very much a family feel to the company. The days of high-tech conference rooms were many years in the future. This is one of several images I scanned from a contact sheet (thus the poor quality). The original prints are undoubtedly buried in a box in some closet.

Twitter coverage of execution

Missourinet (a Learfield network) News Director Bob Priddy covered last night’s execution of Dennis Skillicorn. Reporters and witnesses can’t take cell phones past a certain point, but Bob was planning to use Twitter to file updates before and after the execution (he was a witness).

The wifi he expected wasn’t available so he took notes and posted to @missourinet when he got back on line (at the motel, I assume).

As I expected, Twitter was a very effective tool in the hands of good and experienced reporters. Here’s a screen shot from early this morning.


Had reporters been allowed to keep their Blackberrys and iPhones, this is probably as close to live coverage of an execution as we’re likely to get.

And in the hands of someone as responsible as Bob Priddy, I think this might be a good idea. As I understand it, the rationale behind having witnesses is to insure the people of Missouri “see” this ultimate punishment. Twitter might be the least sensational way to accomplish this on a mass scale.

I’ll make a prediciton here: If not in Missouri, some state will allow or provide this coverage.

Garrison Keillor on the future of radio

“The future of public radio is shining bright if only we can wrest it out of the hands of people my age and into the hands of people forty years younger. The problem isn’t the medium — the technology is light, portable, easy to use — the problem is the heavy hand of tradition that keeps innovation at bay. There is so much that can be best conveyed through audio, Erin, and that won’t change. The music industry is getting flattened by the Internet, but there’s a great future for radio. I see reality radio as the next big thing — eavesdropping radio, the microphone picking up things you weren’t meant to hear — and then I see radio drama coming back to life, but radio drama that attempts to impersonate reality.

“As far as news goes, radio is the province of the Authoritative Voice, and people are always ready for the next one. We are creatures who love to listen to our own kind. We’re intrigued by the sound of ourselves. When I see people walking around with little wires running into their ears, I have to think radio has a future.”

Newsroom change


I only snapped one photo of Bob Priddy in action on election night. Through studio glass (you can see my reflection in this larger image) with producer John Simms in the background. MacBook Pro and video camera are streaming live video to Ustream. Big screen TV’s on the walls, high-speed connection to the Secretary of State’s website with up-to-the-minute returns.

When I joined the company in 1984, Bob was still writing stories on this manual Royal typewriter (below). Audio was captured on reel-to-reel tape recorders and “dubbed” to analog carts. We had a UPI printer spewing out the news (on long rolls of paper), and election returns were phoned in by a reporter sitting in the Secretary of State’s office.


Can’t imagine what we’ll have in four years. Bob Priddy’s memory of those days is better than mine:

“Actually, we were using cassettes, not R2R in ’84. We relied on UPI for election returns with reporters at various gatherings of candidates. We didn’t put anybody in the SOS office until the Presidential primary of ’88, after studying what AP and UPI did in the 86 general election.”