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Mid-Michigan’s “Dean of Sports” Reflects on 50 Years in Broadcasting

Russ White
Tim Staudt

Affectionately known as the "Dean of Sports," Lansing-based WILX-TV and WVFN Radio’s Tim Staudt has been broadcasting in the area for 50 years. He has hosted "Staudt on Sports" on The Game 730 AM since 1993. And he has anchored the sportscasts at Channel 10 since 1980. Prior to that, he was the sports director at the former WJIM-TV in Lansing from 1970-1980. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1971 with a degree in journalism.

“To this day, two or three of the journalists and professors I had at Michigan State still have an impact on me; I thought they were aces. They were absolutely impartial. They taught facts and taught us to report the facts," says Staudt.

“I always thought I was going to be in writing because as a part time job going through school I was in sports information and that seemed fascinating to me. I worked for two hall of fame guys in Fred Stabley and Nick Vista.”

Then after working in radio and doing radio news with Detroit Pistons and Spartan Football broadcasting legend George Blaha, Staudt began his television career as a weatherman.

“Channel 6 needed an 11 o'clock television weather man because the six o'clock weather man had a radio morning shift, and they didn't want him working 18 hours a day. Then after I'd done it for a couple of nights, I said ‘Now you know I'm doing this because I want to do the sports.’”

How has the broadcasting industry changed in Staudt’s 50 years on the air? Technology advances, of course. “But you can say that about medicine, automotive, airplanes; everything's changed over 50 years due to technology. I always thought local television’s greatest impact was in the pre-cable days because, if you wanted to watch television at the dinner table, you had to watch ABC, CBS, or NBC.

“Cable gave everybody options. That was in 1979, and that's when ESPN came about. Then I think the other big change was the introduction of high-definition television.”

The challenges ahead for broadcasting revolve around who is going to pay for TV and who isn’t.

“This has been an endless issue in the industry. Should you go ala carte and be able to pay for what you want or do you have to pay for everything? Like your property tax. To this point, you pay on a tier basis. An issue with this is the Big Ten Network moving forward. If the Big Ten Network can't keep getting money from everyone in paid TV, then that's going to obviously reduce the amount of money they can give to various schools.

“It’s hard to predict exactly whether that same amount of revenue, let alone more revenue, is going to be available then.”

And since television funds so much of college athletics budgets, these factors could impact intercollegiate athletics.

“The new president of Michigan State, later this year, when he or she looks at where athletics are - and if that president is well versed in athletics - I would think that president is going to have to look long and hard at the future of paying the bills. This is an issue for everyone moving forward in higher education in America.”

 Staudt shares his views on basketball’s “one and done” rule and weighs in on the implications of Bryce Harpers’ 13-year $330 million contract. And he says “baseball is at a crossroads. The commissioner of baseball today is looking at the state of the game and the demographics of those who pay the money to buy the tickets. It's a challenge for the colleges and the NFL and the NBA and everybody else to find people who are willing to meet the salary levels by paying to buy the tickets to go to the games and support it in the way that professional sports have been supported by the public through the years.

“Baseball is a slower game that appeals to a generation prior to the advent of the popularity of the NFL. The hard cores are probably always going to stay with it, which is the nature of sports. If you want to grow the sport to the younger generation, that's the challenge.”

Staudt isn’t exactly sure what advice to offer to young people today who want to get into broadcasting and journalism.

“The way I did it could never happen anymore. I'm a dinosaur the way this thing has all worked out. Fifty-year runs in anything are very difficult to do. Are we going to have printed newspapers next year? Are we going to have television news the way we know it? I can tell you that in television news like everything else, companies are trying to pare the health insurance down and pare the payroll down even though they might have viewership and advertising revenue and are doing well. They don't want to lose that.

“I guess what I'm saying is, I don't really have a lot of good advice because I don't know where the industry is going to go relative to this. There isn’t a clear career path like there used to be where you take this job first and then this job will come second and this will come third. By the time you've been in it ten years you'll be making six figures. I can't promise that, especially now. This is an iPhone media conscious world. Every place I go when I’m in New York there used to be many newspaper stands on the corners with a plethora of newspapers to buy and everybody was buying them. Now all you see are people reading iPhones. Even people you don't even think know how to work the things are consuming their news on an iPhone.

“To me that's where it's headed. But who's going to produce the news and how will they get that information to the iPhones? And I have no idea what those people will get paid.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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