by Melissa Wilson
Pressing his nose against a window and peering in at what's going on inside actually paid off on at least two occasions for KTTS news director Morris James. James got his first job as a part-time reporter for KTXR when he was 14 years old by hanging around the station until someone gave him some work.
"I used to press my nose against the window, and one day an opportunity came up for me to work part-time there (KTXR). I worked at KWTO when I was in high school, also," James said.
A teenage fascination with fire trucks, ambulances and police cars drove James to work as an emergency medical technician in high school as well.
"When I was 15 I worked for a company called AAA Ambulance, which was another place I just kind of hung out at until one day they hired me. I always kept my hand in that; kept an active EMT license," James said.
After graduating from Parkview High School, James briefly attended Southwest Missouri State University and then moved to Neosho to work for KBTN as a deejay. When he was 18, he landed a full-time reporter position at KTTS. Three years later, in 1974, he was named news director.
James' previous interest in traffic accidents and emergency respons intensified as the KTTS Go Patrol was launched in the '70s.
"In the early days of KTTS, we had police officers doing our traffic reports. It was called Officer Mic, short for microphone," James said. "We started looking at the idea of putting someone out in a mobile unit, traveling around the city and watching for traffic problems. We also looked at it as a money-making venture by selling the traffic reports," he added.
He credited KTTS program director Don Paul with coming up with the Go Patrol name.
"Don came to me and said, 'I've got this great idea: Let's call it the Go Patrol.' That was probably '74 or '75," James said.
Other radio stations within the Great Empire Broadcasting group follow a similar news format to that of KTTS, although James said traffic coverage is airborne in larger cities. In 1983, James left KTTS to work in television, but did not find the visual medium to his taste.
"I had a very short stint in television as an assignment editor at KY3. The happiest day of my life was the day I got fired," James said.
James then returned to Great Empire Broadcasting, the parent company of KTTS, and several other radio stations across the country. Great Empire recently sold all its assets to Journal Broadcast Group, which will take possession of KTTS and the other stations Jan. 18.
James worked as news director for a Denver radio station until 1987, when his career took another turn.
He left Great Empire to start his own Denver-based company called the News-Plus Network, which provided local news and traffic reports to Denver radio stations and its one television news station at that time.
"We were kind of a supplement to news operations. We provided sound and news conferences, traffic reports; it was kind of a multi-faceted operation," James said.
While James was concentrating on the News-Plus Network, Great Empire Broadcasting began its employee stock ownership program.
In 1989, James had the opportunity to return to Great Empire, moving to Omaha, Neb., to become the news director of WQOW.
"I was able to jump back with them and go to Omaha without losing any points as far as being vested in the stock ownership program. For me, that was a better goal down the road than sitting there banging my head each day trying to survive," James said.
James stayed at WQOW until May, when KTTS General Manager Curt Brown offered him the news director job that he left in 1983.
"I had had some discussions with Curt (Brown) about the news operations here, about KTTS considering a change. I had given him some suggestions about what I thought could be done here," James said.
"At the time, I really didn't look at it as a possibility of moving back. My wife's parents are here, and she brought up the possibility of moving back here when we were visiting one weekend."
Another weekend visit to Springfield last spring brought James to the realization that he would like to return to KTTS. He dropped Brown a note while he was in Springfield to let him know that he was prepared to move if Brown wanted him back.
"I guess the letter hit his desk and he picked up the phone within a couple of days, called me and said, 'If you're serious, I'm serious,'" James said.
James said everything fit into place for him and his family to move back to Springfield. He recognized the challenges KTTS could once again provide him. His wife wanted to return to be near family, and they both wanted their 5-year-old son to start school in Springfield.
After being gone 15 years, James said he can see how much Springfield has changed, not only in size, but in awareness.
"I came back to a much different Springfield. One that's bigger and more on the ball," James said.
James said his goals for KTTS this time around are basically the same as when he was news director from 1974 to 1983 to provide the best local news coverage possible.
"The focus now is on coming up with new and creative stories, as well as covering breaking stories. I'll probably bring back more depth in the breaking news arena and in the traffic area," James said. "The whole goal of KTTS all along has been to provide severe weather coverage, breaking news coverage, and political and government news, and it kind of goes on from there."
KTTS News Director Morris James says providing listeners with Springfield's leading coverage of severe weather, breaking news and government and political happenings is his primary goal.[[In-content Ad]]
Surgical tech workers are in high demand, officials say.