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1922-2022 A yearlong celebration marking WKAR's 100th anniversary of service to the mid-Michigan and Spartan communities

As WKAR turns 100, Scott Pohl reflects on his decades working in its newsroom

headshot of Scott Pohl, smiling at the camera
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WKAR-MSU

There's one name in mid-Michigan that's synonymous to many with WKAR News: Scott Pohl.

Scott has been working in WKAR's newsroom for nearly four decades. As the station celebrates a century of service, WKAR's Al Martin sat down with Scott to talk about his many years in the newsroom and how the station has evolved.

This conversation originally aired during WKAR's Century of Service special on Aug. 20, 2022.

Interview Highlights

On how Scott stayed in the newsroom past retirement

I was planning to retire at the end of April in 2020, and along the way, in discussions with management, I still wanted to do a story once in a while. Management wanted me to be available to fill in once in a while, maybe. So, it was always the plan that I would be on the air occasionally. And you know what happened in March of 2020, five or six weeks before my retirement was going to go into effect. So, the news department needed stories, we needed to cover the story of the shutdown. ... And so the station needed me more. I couldn't go do anything fun anyway, because of the lockdown.

On how radio reporting has changes over the years

A four-minute story that today I can whip together in an hour maybe, probably would have taken me four or five hours in those days. We also used cartridges for the newscasts, you know, for instance, the sound bites in a newscast. There were like eight tracks that people from my era will remember. And so, you would walk in to deliver a newscast with a stack of carts, and you would hope you had them in the right order. And you had a board operator to push the buttons and turn your microphone on. And so, producing a feature sometimes required a bit of a dance like if you wanted to play natural sound underneath it.

Interview Transcript

Al Martin: Just like you can't have WKAR without NPR, well, there's one name in mid-Michigan that's synonymous to many with the WKAR newsroom, and that is Scott Pohl. That's right, after reporting at WKAR for 38 years, Scott is now retired or semi-retired, I should say. He's still here reporting often, and he joins us now. And something that is mind boggling is that Scott, it's August 20 and to the day, 38 years ago, is when you began your career at WKAR. That's pretty wild that our celebration fell on the same day that you were hired.

Scott Pohl: Yeah, I did not know that it was a station anniversary when I walked in that first day.

Martin: That's pretty, pretty wild. Well, all right. Scott, I want to start here because there's an interesting story of how a retirement turned into not quite that, because you're always here reporting and still doing incredible work for us here.

Pohl: Well, you know, I was planning to retire at the end of April in 2020. And along the way, in discussions with management, I still wanted to do a story once in a while. Management wanted me to be available to fill in once in a while, maybe. So, it was always the plan that I would be on the air occasionally.

And you know what happened in March of 2020, five or six weeks before my retirement was going to go into effect. So, the news department needed stories, we needed to cover the story of the shutdown. Also, along the way, shortly after that, our Morning Edition host left and Kevin Lavery started filling in on Morning Edition, somebody needed to do the kind of spot news load that Kevin would typically do which he couldn't do while doing Morning Edition. And so the station needed me more.

I couldn't go do anything fun anyway, because of the lockdown, you know. So, I kind of kept reporting. And I must say, I'm grateful to management here, not only for allowing that, but in the intervening months and two years or whatever it is now, the station has been very good to me about time off. Like I can say, now "I'm playing golf today. I'm not working today" or "I'm going to be gone for a week and a half to do something." The station has been very good to me about staying on.

My ultimate goal, if I was to tell you, is that I want to be the Susan Stamberg of WKAR, which means at some point, I'm just on once in a great while doing something I want to do and the station indulges me and puts it on the air. That's kind of my goal for the future. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying sticking around.

Martin: Well, I tell you what Scott, I think you've earned that right, again, 38 years of service. And you still being around here doing again, fantastic work. Thank you so much. Now, how did you come to WKAR? And what changes have you seen in the newsroom over time?

Pohl: Two questions there. So, how did I come here? I was only working part time at an operation in Lansing at the time called the Michigan News Network. I had lost a full-time job at a commercial station in town. And there was a sudden vacancy here and Curt Gilleo, the news director at the time, we did not know each other, but he knew of me. And he called me and brought me in for an interview. And after we talked he offered me the job. And at the time, things could move very quickly. He asked me, "When can you start?" You know, it's different than that now, right?

Martin: It's totally different. It's totally different, Scott.

Pohl: He said, "When can you start?" And I said, "Well, I could start on Monday, but I might need two weeks off starting Tuesday" because my first child was on the way. My wife was very pregnant. And I said, "I could start Monday, but I might need to go away for a couple of weeks." Well, my son Zach turned out to be born on September 12. So, there was a few weeks in there before I needed some paternity leave time. But that's how I came to be here.

Martin: Wow, that is incredible. Now, when it comes to those changes in the newsroom, what changes are we seeing?

Pohl: Well, you know, when I arrived, I was doing a newscast at noon. I was producing a daily live call-in show, and I had an office down the hall, small office, with an enormous steel desk and a typewriter that probably weighed 40 pounds. A stack of yellow paper, we typed on yellow paper. I don't really remember why we chose yellow. My guess is that it was the cheapest paper you could get.

The typewriter was a little different in that if you think of a standard typewriter, you think of the size of print that it makes. Well, this typewriter made it was like a larger font typewriter, and so that's what we wrote our stories on and we used a lot of whiteout on yellow paper to make corrections and splicing tape back in those days.

You would take a quarter inch tape, there was a little metal block with a track that the tape would fit into and a diagonal track at 45 degrees across that that you could use a razor blade and to cut the tape. So, on a reel to reel machine, you would use a grease pencil to mark the place where you wanted to start the cut and the place where you wanted to end the cut. You made two cuts, spliced the tape together with a piece of tape that was also the same size. It was a quarter inch piece of tape. And then when you played it through you hope you made a decent splice, so you couldn't hear the chunky noise of a bad splice.

Martin: Oh my goodness, I tell you in the world of editing today, digital editing, of course.

Pohl: It's amazing.

Martin: But it had to be so tedious and time consuming, right, Scott?

Pohl: It really, really, was. A four-minute story that today I can whip together in an hour maybe, probably would have taken me four or five hours in those days. We also used cartridges for the newscasts, you know, for instance, the sound bites in a newscast. There were like eight tracks that people from my era will remember. And so, you would walk in to deliver a newscast with a stack of carts, and you would hope you had them in the right order. And you had a board operator to push the buttons and turn your microphone on.

And so, producing a feature sometimes required a bit of a dance like if you wanted to play natural sound underneath it. Somebody had to play the natural sound and then get rid of it when you wanted them to lose it. And if they missed it, you had to start the whole thing all over again. So, it was a team effort sometimes to make a four-minute story.

Martin: Scott, 38 years here at WKAR, you have reported on and experienced a lot. What are some of your most memorable moments here at WKAR?

Pohl: Well, early in my time here, I did a story that meant a lot to me because as a kid, I attended a one-room schoolhouse for four years, kindergarten through the third grade. And quite a while ago, I visited three one-room schoolhouses that were still open in Michigan. One of them was in the Grand Ledge district. One was on a little island in Lake Huron up by Mackinac Island and another was in Cross Village in northern Michigan, which has or had, at the time a sizable, Native American population. So, I got to revisit one-room schools.

And then I interviewed people in the College of Education for a fourth part about the difference between one-room schooling education and what most people think of as public education today. So, that really meant a lot to me to be able to cover that story and brought back a lot of my own childhood memories.

Martin: Oh, that's an awesome story.

Pohl: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Martin: Scott, it's been a pleasure. Again, Scott Pohl joining us today on the 38th anniversary of his start here at WKAR,. That's still mind boggling to think about. Scott, thank you so much for being with us today.

Pohl: Thank you, Al. Great seeing you.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Al Martin is the host of Current Sports, the daily radio call-in program from WKAR NewsTalk. Al is also on the WKAR News team as a regular sports contributor and plays a key sports reporting and content role on all other WKAR media platforms.
As managing editor, Karel Vega supervises news reporters and hosts of news programming, and is responsible for the planning and editing of WKAR's news content.
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