Behind the news at KFVS-TV

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Have you ever been in the mall and happened to come across, oh, say ... Mary-Ann Maloney? Or perhaps been in a restaurant and seen Bob Reeves? I have the same reaction seeing them as I would if some movie star had just walked through the door.

"Dear God ..." I'll whisper to the person closest to me, "Is that ... ?! IT IS!"

During the next few minutes I'll nonchalantly stalk them before I realize that I could be arrested -- then I continue on my merry way.

When I job shadowed at KFVS12 last year, I was star struck.

Wendy Ray burst through the door while Kathy Sweeney and Ryan Tate joked about something. Mike Shain came into the room and began talking to a cameraman.

The whole time I was there, however, there was one man I did not encounter.

Mike Smythe is that man.

He's the general manager of all this hustle and bustle, plus his ViewPoint segment was named Editorial of the Year in the Missouri and Illinois Broadcasters Association.

So I figured I'd better interview him so that people my age could get to know him better as well as his somewhat controversial 2 1/2-minute segment on KFVS12.

Sam: Is it true you were a suspect in the attempted Ronald Reagan assassination?

Mike: What did you say?

Sam: Now that we've gotten people's attention, what is a day like in the life of Mike Smythe?

Mike: I actually have no idea what to expect with each day. That's the beauty about this business. I have spur-of-the-moment meetings, such as the one I had just several minutes ago. We're discussing which show will take the spot of "The Wayne Brady Show" since it has been canceled. I get around 30 e-mails a day and 10 letters from people who either love what I have to say or despise me. It's absolutely impossible to make everyone happy.

Sam: How do you come by the topics you talk about on your editorial ViewPoint?

Mike: Sometimes I take ideas from people who watch it and want to see their idea expressed on television. Sometimes I just search for news topics myself and look for an interesting subject to talk about. I even receive letters from prisoners discussing what they would like to see on my program.

Sam: What kinds of things do you do for your editorial and UPN itself to attract younger people between the ages of 12 and 25?

Mike: We try to have a creative newscast for UPN the Beat and point out tidbits of information that may seem interesting to the younger crowd. News is not a big topic among teenagers because they have too many choices these days with satellite and shows on MTV. They become less interested in what's going on in their community. People like Al Gore are trying to get onto shows such as David Letterman so that they can appeal to the younger audience. Kids are not ignorant of the things that are going on around them. It's just that most kids find their news in a different form and not straight from the source. For example, they may not be completely sure of how our government works and that's only because they don't get enough exposure to that kind of learning.

Sam: Who did you idolize most as a child, and what kind of influence did it have on you?

Mike: As for my career influence, I would have to say Peter Jennings. He was the youngest-ever network anchor on ABC. I was amazed by the fact that someone so young could have accomplished so much in their life in that short period of time. It was refreshing to see. As for someone I idolized for pure entertainment, it would have to be Rod Stewart. I'm not into most of the new music these days, although Josh Grobin is a very talented young artist with an excellent voice.

Sam: I know this guy named Sam DeReign who would be really interested in starting his own segment in which he interviews other young adults about current events in a "hip" and "cool" way. What would you say to that, eh? (nudges Mike's shoulder)

Mike: Well, we're always looking at new people for different ideas. Who knows? Attracting audiences your age is a primary goal here at UPN, and it's hard to do. You would have to talk to a news director. I wouldn't be able to make that decision. There are always internships and things like that you can get involved in at different stations to get your foot in the door. However, we do not offer them here at KFVS12. We do offer college students jobs so that they can gain more knowledge in the field. As for myself, I was actually a teacher for eight years during the Martin Luther King assassination and became a sports announcer after I got my master's in broadcasting.

Sam: What's your say on Saddam Hussein?

Mike: Well … I'm glad we caught him; that's for sure! It helped out the United States' and the Iraqis' situation tremendously. The Iraqis should try him for the things he's done to their people, and it's unfortunate that we are in a state of war. I support our troops and wish them the best of luck.

Sam: Bill O'Reilley?

Mike: I had issues with him at first, but I slowly grew to like him. The thing that annoys me most about him is the fact he doesn't give people credit and doesn't give them the chance to speak, really. The person that I dislike the most, yet I continue to watch his program, is Sean Hannity. Bill O'Reilley is a little more fair and balanced than Mr. Hannity.

Sam: MTV -- and more importantly -- Britney and Madonna's steamy one-second kiss?

Mike: Who cares? I was unhappy with Britney's wedding, and the fact that Madonna is now writing children's books makes matters worse. It was all a publicity stunt, and Ms. Spears may be beautiful but has absolutely no talent. Madonna had talent in the earlier days but is continuing to fade out. Like I said, it was all a publicity stunt and was completely pointless. Most stars on MTV are manufactured and are the culprits for the distraction from the news in the first place.

Well, I hope everyone has gotten to know a bit more about the man both on the scenes and behind them as well. Through all the technical news lingo and the intellige2

nt conversation he had with me, I could tell that sitting in front of me was a man who truly enjoys what he does for a living.

"KFVS12 was and will continue to be an amazing opportunity," he said. "We have so many dedicated hard workers who do their best at getting the stories and updates people need to hear."

"And this boy should be given his own show immediately!" he shouted to everyone as he pointed at me ... in my mind, that is.

Sam DeReign is a senior at Oran High School. Contact him at sdereign@semissourian.com.

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