Steve McKennon has one of the longest careers of radio news people in the Treasure Valley.
McKennon admitted, “I had just graduated from high school and knew very little about the inner-workings of a radio station. But I knew in my heart broadcasting was where I wanted to be. These were the days following the Watergate scandal, and my career goal was to become an investigative reporter – only in radio.”
Smith eventually “gave in” to McKennon’s pleadings and, like all of us, he started on the ground floor. “My very first job was the 12 midnight to 6 a.m. shift, running KBBK’s automation and signing on KBRJ every morning, since the A-M was only licensed to operate from sunrise to sunset.”
A few day shifts included hosting KBRJ’s long-running noon “Tradio” program, where listeners would call in to “buy, sell and trade” various items. It was McKennon’s debut into live radio. “People would sell cars, animals, furniture, collectibles, junk from their back porch, you name it,” he said. “Every show was different. And, at that time, ‘Tradio’ was one of the longest-running noon shows on radio in the Boise market. I think it started back when Ralph Frazer owned KBRJ.”
McKennon eventually reached his goal of becoming a radio news reporter – and, when the two stations launched a number of weekday newscasts within the AM-country and FM-rock formats, McKennon worked under the supervision of then-News Director Barry Poole.
“Of course, back in those days, in the ’70s and ’80s, we didn’t have the Internet, laptops computers, electronic wire services – or even fax machines!” McKennon said. “We had a big, black, clunky UPI teletype machine in a closet by itself, telephones connected to reel-to-reel tape recorders to record actualities (sound bites) and manual typewriters. Also, I remember Barry Poole used to smoke some kind of strange-looking skinny brown cigarettes… which made the newsroom all the more Edward R. Murrow-ish.”
When Poole left a few years later, McKennon took over the News Director’s spot.
During his eleven years in broadcasting, McKennon won a number of awards for his work. “One of the Idaho Press Club awards I won was for a half-hour special I produced for KBBK looking at the influence of organized crime on the Boise prostitution trade. You have to remember: this was in the days of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’. There were a lot of massages parlors, bath houses, etc. operating in Boise back then, and ours was one of the first in-depth reports paper-trailing ownerships and really revealing the criminal elements behind these businesses.”
But, working for one station with a country music format and another with a rock format posed challenges.
“It wasn’t always easy designing newscasts that appealed to both audiences. Often, our newscasts would be totally different … since we did, for example, agriculture-related stories for the country music listeners and more hip stories for the rock audience,” McKennon pointed out.
Today, McKennon is still married to his wife of over 25 years, still lives in the Treasure Valley, and still works in broadcasting (now under his real name). He’s the newsroom Assignment Desk Manager at KIVI-TV , “Today’s Channel 6” in Nampa.
“I’ve always loved the news business,” McKennon said. “I love handling the logistics of covering breaking news, staying ahead of the competition, enterprising stories… And although today’s technology is certainly a lot more advanced and user-friendly than it was 30-some years ago, the news business is still as challenging and competitive and exhilarating as ever.”