Talking Shop with Mike Smythe

Monday, October 18, 2010
Mike Smythe is vice president and general manager of KFVS12. He received a 2010 Mid-America Emmy Award for his editorial commentary.

Mike Smythe, KFVS12 vice president and general manger, received an Emmy Award for his ViewPoint segment at the annual National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences regional banquet Oct. 9 in St. Louis. His entry in the Commentary/Editorial category competed with television stations in markets of all sizes throughout the Midwest, including St. Louis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Ark., and Springfield, Mo.

Question: How did you get your start in television?

Answer: I was on a basketball scholarship at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. A speech professor stopped me at the student union and wondered if I would like to recite a memorized Robert Frost poem on stage during a Christmas event. Somehow she talked me into it. My nonpoetic, athletic teammates were all in the front row to laugh. I didn't win them over with my poetry but ended up with speech/business majors and went on to Bowling Green State University as a graduate assistant in broadcasting working at the public television station. During my early broadcast years I also taught high school full time. I worked during the daytime teaching and nights/weekends in television news eventually becoming a weekend sports anchor. I moved into sales at the station. During those years, I also did hundreds of television commercials, which kept me in front of the camera. I joined KFVS12 from a sister station in North Carolina in 1998 as general sales manager and was named general manager in 2001.

Q: You have a very dynamic delivery style. How have you perfected it through the years?

A: All of my jobs, including teaching, kept me in front of groups and this forced me to develop a style. As a speech teacher, you are scrutinized more than most other teachers in every class session. A great television anchor taught me early on that the camera is just one person. You talk to that camera one-on-one. Remember, you have been invited into that living room and you are not making a speech to 25,000 people. I have just learned to talk to a lens like it is an actual person.

Q: What do you enjoy most about sharing your ViewPoints? What is the hardest part of putting together these segments?

A: Raycom Media, our parent company, requires all general managers who have news operations to air editorials for viewer feedback. Most GM types don't come from the anchor team. I enjoy taking various subject matter and looking at it differently. This week my comments are about the U.S. congressional candidate from Ohio who had his picture taken in a Nazi SS uniform. I happen to personally know the man from years ago. He remains a friend of my family. The candidate has ended up on all the networks and cable channels and is trouble for doing nothing but participating in military re-enactments. In this World War II segment he was on the wrong side. Some have to be on the wrong side or it is not a re-enactment. This idiotic kind of bad publicity is what keeps good people out of politics. He did nothing wrong, and it makes no sense. I am happy to give him some regional support. I really have no problem finding subject matter. Many times viewers send me ideas. Many times they just want me to shut up. The graphics and video inserts are what make the ViewPoints stand out. Derek Dickerson is the director, and he is absolutely sensational making the segments look good on the air. Derek is an amazing talent, and I am lucky to have someone like him behind the scenes. Talk about taking pride in your work. Derek could teach all of us a good lesson.

Q: It's been more than a year since "The Big Switch" from analog to digital television. What have been the lasting effects from this?

A: It was a tough change for all broadcasters, and it cost a lot of money. We still have to move to high-definition news, and we hope that will happen in 2011. That change will again cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. Raycom Media is committed to all media platforms so the overall investment is huge. We are the only VHF station now in the market, so many homes had to get the right VHF antenna. Our complaints have gone down considerably since the digital transition in June 2009.

Q: How has the television business changed throughout your career? What are your predictions for the future of this form of media?

A: When I came to Cape Girardeau, we had only KFVS12. Now we have added WQWQ (CW),, KFVS12 digital weather channel, My KFVS mobile and the list goes on. Change is painful but the viewers can have our news, weather and sports any way they want it. In fact, the viewers demand it. Raycom Media is committed to making this happen. Don't sell television set viewing out. The average household has the television set on more than 8 1/2 hours per day. We break the viewing record every year since they started counting back in the early 1950s. The future remains bright and news will continue to drive local viewing. Just this month we started doing a full hour of news on KBSI Fox 23 seven days a week. The appetite for local news continues to grow. We have been on the air in some form or another since Oscar Hirsch started with radio in 1925. He inaugurated television in 1954, and we will be here probably forever with some form of broadcasting.

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