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In the Spotlight

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

In the newsroom of KSPR Springfield 33, anchor Susan Harding was giving TV viewers a quick summary of the news stories coming up at 10 p.m. Standing in the background was sportscaster Chris Pilgrim. He had on a dress shirt, tie and suit jacket. He also was wearing bright orange basketball shorts.

During a regular newscast, Pilgrim is seated behind a desk and is seen only from the waist up. Earlier, he had put on shorts to go videotape a local baseball game. He was rushing to finalize some last-minute details in the production area of the newsroom when the camera caught him off guard.

As a career broadcaster, Pilgrim has had his share of awkward moments. The way he handles the unexpected, however, is what makes him stand out as a professional.

"I try not to take myself too seriously," Pilgrim said. "There isn't an anchor out there that hasn't goofed up on the air. If somebody makes a mistake, we tease them about it. But we all really like each other, and everyone here works hard to put a quality product on the air. I think that's evident if you watch our newscast."

After years of paying his dues working at radio and TV stations around the country, Pilgrim said he's having fun working and living in the place he loves the most Springfield. A Springfield native, Pilgrim's knowledge of area sports is reflected in every broadcast.

"Because Chris was born and raised in Springfield, he definitely knows the history of local teams in the area," Harding said. "He can really report beyond the Friday night football scores, and I appreciate that as a sports fan myself."

Pilgrim broke into broadcasting when he was just 16 years old. A student at Parkview High School, he phoned in live reports on the results of area high school sporting events to listeners of KGBX radio.

After high school, Pilgrim attended Missouri Southern State College in Joplin and later transferred to Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.

While at SMSU, he worked for the ABC affiliate, then KMTC TV Channel 27, first as a weatherman, and later as a sportscaster. (The station has since changed to KDEB Channel 27 and is now a Fox affiliate.)

After leaving KMTC, Pilgrim worked as a disco DJ in local clubs around Springfield. In 1985, he left Springfield and became the news director for KDXE Dixie 96 radio in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Later, he went on to train film crews for Video Preview Inc., which produced video tours of homes for sale.

The job took Pilgrim to Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. Tired of traveling and missing his family, Pilgrim returned to Springfield in 1991.

"That first year back in Springfield was tough," Pilgrim said. "There's a finite number of jobs in radio and TV, and not very many of them pay a livable wage."

Eventually, Pilgrim landed jobs at radio stations KWTO 560 and then US 97. In 1992, he went to work for TV 5 in Branson, where he co-anchored a live morning talk show with Adele West.

"Adele and I were the Branson version of 'Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,'" Pilgrim said. "We interviewed everybody from the Taney County librarian to Wayne Newton."

The most memorable interview, however, was with a contortionist fiddle player, according to Pilgrim. During the interview, the fiddle player assumed an awkward position and then asked Pilgrim to stand on his back.

"I didn't want to do it because I'm a big guy, and I thought I would hurt him," Pilgrim said. "This was live TV anything could have happened. Eventually, he talked me into standing on him, and he just continued playing. It turned out to be a great segment fun and spontaneous."

In 1994, he left TV 5 and joined KSPR Springfield 33. The move brought Pilgrim full circle. His first job as a TV sportscaster had been with an ABC affiliate station, and Pilgrim found himself working for the new ABC affiliate, KSPR.

The move also has brought something Pilgrim had been seeking stability. At age 38, Pilgrim said, he feels like he has gained the experience he needs to succeed in broadcasting, and now financial security and job stability have become priorities.

Family, however, still takes top priority, according to Pilgrim.

He and his wife Beth have a 3-year-old son, Jackson, and most of their family members live in the Springfield area.

"I'd really like to stay with Springfield 33," Pilgrim said. "This is the longest I've ever been in one job, and it's an overwhelmingly good feeling. I really look forward to doing my job. I feel fortunate to be where I am right now."

PHOTO CAPTION:

Chris Pilgrim has come home to Springfield after traveling the country with various jobs.

PHOTO CAPTION:

KSPR 33 sportscaster Chris Pilgrim has come full circle, returning to the city where he got his start, [[In-content Ad]]

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