News Director Report

Hey everyone,

I hope everyone is all set for the upcoming holidays. It’s hard to believe Christmas is here. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas weekend. That brings me to the first thing I want to talk about in this edition of the ND Report.

I’m not sure how this got started, but for some reason there was a rumor circulating that I have declared that the WBKO anchors must say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. The only thing I can figure is that one of our anchors said “Happy Holidays” at some point during all this debate over whether the tree in Washington should be called the “Christmas Tree” or the “Holiday Tree”. I want to say definitively that at no point have I ever made such a decree. Our anchors are perfectly free to say “Merry Christmas” if they choose to. Christmas is an important part of our lives in South-Central Kentucky and should remain that way. I guess I’ve gotten a couple dozen phone calls about this from people accusing me of trying to take Christ out of Christmas. That’s certainly not the case. I don’t think this is the place for any deep theological discussion, but I would like to say one more thing about this before I move on. At least four or five of the phone calls I received about this topic were quite un-Christlike. In fact, I’d think Jesus would be quite embarrassed and outraged at the way his name was being tossed around.

Now, let’s move on to more of the business at hand. I got an unwanted Christmas gift a couple of weeks ago. Kelly Sparks gave me her resignation. She’s taken a job in another city. It’s a great opportunity for her, so it’s hard for me to be too disappointed. Kelly started with us as a part-timer while she was still in college at Western. She hasn’t been on the 10:00 for long, but she’s really developed into an excellent anchor and will be missed.

Kelly’s departure means there’s going to be some shuffling of the WBKO staff. Fida Georges will be taking over anchoring the 10:00. Tamara Evans will become the new weekend anchor. Tara Hettinger will become a full time reporter. You’ve probably seen Tamara reporting on the weekends. She’s a hometown girl with a great future ahead of her. Tara currently is the producer for AM Kentucky. A few months ago, she went with a crew from WBKO down to one of our sister stations in Meridian, MS to help out with Katrina coverage and did a good job reporting for them. You’re actually going to be seeing Tara anchoring the 10:00 the week between Christmas and New Years. In fact, for the next couple of weeks you’ll be seeing a lot of faces in places you’re not used to seeing them. Holiday vacations and a flu bug going through the newsroom are forcing a lot of temporary re-assignments.

Many of you continue to write or call and ask about Darla. Right now, all I can really say is that I expect her to return to work sometime after the first of the year. For those of you who don’t know, about six weeks ago Darla’s parents were involved in a motorcycle accident. Her mother was killed instantly and her father passed away several days later. She’s doing about as well as can anyone can be expected to do after losing both parents that way. I know she and her family can use all of your prayers as they try to get through this Christmas season. At the end of this newsletter I would like to take a few moments to share with you a very valuable lesson that Darla’s mom has taught me in death about life itself.

Before that though I want to tell you all about a couple of new and exciting projects we’ve been working on here at WBKO. The first one is WBKO-to-go. We’ve made arrangements to have the news, weather, and sports from our website available on internet capable phones. More and more cell phones in today’s world are capable of accessing the internet, but most websites are not “phone-friendly”. There’s too many graphics to download and this slows the access for phones down substantially. Our new site, is designed specifically for phone usage. In addition, many of the local cell providers are placing our website on their “local” section on their phones browsers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting on the lake and would have given anything to be able to see the radar. This service would have prevented me getting soaked on many a fishing trip.

The second project I think you guys will find interesting is a new partnership we’ve entered into with The Sporting Times. The Sporting Times is a local monthly magazine that specializes in youth sports. They cover everything from middle school basketball to high school cross country. At this point, we are putting the magazine on our website in its entirety each month and looking for ways to incorporate more youth sports into our newscasts. At this point, the magazine only covers six or seven counties, but we hope to be able to grow that in the future. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this partnership is that we are making all the photos that are shot at any youth events covered available for purchase on the web site. These will be professional quality “action” shots that will be sold very reasonably in a variety of sizes and forms. I’m sure many of you parents out there will want to check out your little ones in action. Right now there are just a few on the site, but there are many, many more to come.

Now back to Darla’s mother. I’ll be the first to admit that she and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but I had a tremendous amount of respect for her and her faith. She and her husband Jimmy were very devout Christians. She was a person who lived her faith seven days a week and not just on Sundays. A few years ago she gave Darla an envelope. She told Darla to open it if anything ever happened to her and she passed away. She said it contained instructions for her funeral. Now I’m sure, at that time, Darla didn’t want to talk about such a horrible thing. When the unthinkable happened, however, that envelope became a treasure for Darla and her siblings. It was a direct connection to their mother. I don’t know what all was in the letter; that’s far too personal and just for the family. What I do know is that she wanted a “celebration” of her life and not a “funeral”. Her “celebration” at Hillvue was a party complete with balloons. She wanted the pastor to begin the “celebration” by informing the crowd that “Shaleen Johnson had moved and she wanted to make sure that everyone had directions to get to her new home.” I know the family took a great deal of peace and comfort in knowing that everything was just what their mom wanted.

The truth is that few of us like to talk about death, but every day we hear about people who died way too young. What I learned from Shaleen is that we all need to find a way to make sure our families knows what we would want if something terrible happened to us. Whether it happens in a short conversation or a sealed letter, a few minutes of discomfort on our part could make life so much easier for those loved ones we leave behind. That’s a lesson that will stay with me for life.

As always, if you have any questions about what we do here at WBKO feel free to email me at If you would like to read past editions of this News Director Report, just go to our “news” page on the website and click on the “News Director Report” icon on the right side of the page.

Thanks for reading,

John Preston
News Director