----------40 seconds on the


It was late winter 1990, and there was a nationwide strike of Greyhound bus drivers going on. One of the drivers was accidentally killed during a protest. He was from Wenatchee, and that's where his memorial service would be held. With the two sides far apart in negotiations, it was feared there could be trouble at the service.

What a great opportunity for a local radio guy to get some network exposure!

So John Sattgast, then KPQ's news director, and I combed the opportunities. We had two choices:* ABC, our primary network; or NBC, from whom we aired "Talknet," "First Light," and some feature programs (though technically we were not considered an NBC affiliate). John rightly figured he should cover the story for ABC; meanwhile, I called Westwood One and asked if they were interested in my services for NBC (WW1 owned both NBC Radio and Mutual). They said "yes."

So on a snowy Friday afternoon, John and I both sat in the balcony of Wenatchee's Free Methodist Church, recording the service (we each had our own tape recorders) and deciding what to use in our reports. It had to be brief: I was limited to a total of 40 seconds, including my tag (my name and the network ID - that alone took four seconds!).

While we had our own equipment at the service, back at KPQ we had one production studio to fight over - er, I mean, share. John (who is nothing if not competitive) got the room first. So it wasn't until about 4:15 p.m. that I called the WW1 newsroom in Arlington, VA and fed my report. Forty seconds, right on the button.

When I got home, I called my dad and told him to listen to KING (NBC's Seattle affiliate) every hour on the hour. I also instructed the guy working at KPQ to run a tape and record NBC's satellite feed each hour, so I could have a copy.

Then, I tried to get a little sleep - I had to work the overnight shift.

A little after 8 p.m., my dad called. He heard it, and said it sounded "fine." Coming from him, that was high praise.

So, now you can listen to the 11 p.m. EST broadcast of NBC Radio's "News on the Hour" from March 9, 1990 and hear for yourself:

It may not sound like much, but I put everything I had into saying that tag: "Ken Johannessen, for NBC Radio Network News. . ." For those 40 brief seconds, I was a part of America's first radio network. It was the high point of my radio life up 'til then. And that little bit of pride came back when I heard the tape, knowing that it went out over some 300 stations across the country.

Full disclosure: although the clever editing might give you the idea, my story did NOT lead the newscast; rather, it was the first story in the second segment, which started 2½ minutes in.

And no, I'm not really upset that Charles Van Dyke mispronounced my name (although I cringe whenever I hear it). At least I got it right.

One side note: when I was feeding my report, the engineer in Arlington asked me to do a tag for Mutual. I had no problem with that, but was afraid there'd be trouble with KPQ management if my voice was heard over the Mutual station in town. Of course, when I told them that, they said I should have done it. It would have been a nice "in your face" to be heard on the competition! (The extra 25 bucks would have been nice, too.)

Although it struck me as kinda funny when I got my payment for the report - guess what was on the check stub?

And, finally, if you've gotten this far, you've probably spent two minutes here on a story about something that lasted less than half that. I understand the dichotomy of that. But thanks for hanging in there anyway.

*- In case you were wondering, sending our stories to CBS or Mutual wasn't considered, since we weren't affiliated with them; besides, CBS only takes material from its affiliates. AP Radio, as it turns out, was an option, too - but we honestly never thought of them.

Text copyright © 2013 Kenneth I. Johannessen.

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But the traditional NBC network - the NBC we know today - was RED.

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