Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Remembering Jon Poston

We were pleased earlier this month to hook up with a former broadcast colleague from the early 1970s at KMEG-TV in Sioux City, Iowa. Gene Ambroson is the Director of Alumni Relations for Morningside College, which tells me he’s been a media fixture around Sioux City for nearly 40 years.

The occasion of our communication was not a happy one. Our old boss at KMEG-TV, Jon Poston, had passed away some weeks earlier in Cave Creek, Arizona, where he had been living for a good many years. The cause of death was a massive stroke. He was 74 years old.

Jon was a veteran newsman with a background in both radio and television. Some of his early work for WAKY Radio in Louisville, Kentucky, can be heard in this audio archive. You can scroll down there to find audio bites of Jon's 1960 coverage of Richard Nixon's visit to Louisville. Jon later became News Director for KTVH-TV in Wichita.

I first knew of Jon Poston in the 1960s, when he was a News Editor and anchor for KETV/Channel 7 in Omaha. I was working as News Director for KMA Shenandoah, owned by the May Broadcasting Company, which also owned KMTV in Omaha. I didn’t meet Jon until 1971, when he was News Director for KMEG-TV. He hired me to do weather and business reporting for the CBS affiliate.

In those years, KMEG-TV was a spunky upstart in the Sioux City market. Buried in the basement of a coffee company building out on Floyd Boulevard, Channel 14 was owned by Medallion Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Fetzer Broadcasting. Bob Donovan was the General Manager. We had a staff that was considerably smaller than cross-town rival KCAU-TV/Channel 9. The venerable KTIV/Channel 4 was no longer a viable news competitor in the market. The legendary Don Stone was near the end of his career.

Thanks to Gene Ambroson for sharing this photograph, circa 1972. Surrounding Jon Poston in the center (clockwise from the left): Gene Ambroson, reporter; Larry Finley, cinematographer; George Linblade, cinematographer; Bruce Lewis, reporter; Jolene Stevens, reporter; Larry Miller, weatherman/business reporter; and Paul Marshall, sports.

Our underdog status was in many ways an advantage for KMEG. Jon was a competitive kind of guy who enjoyed “beating” the big boys across town, and we would often celebrate our successes with a late-night brew at “Frank’s,” a neighborhood restaurant/tavern on the north side of town. Come to think of it, we frequented Frank’s rather often – victory celebration or not.

I remember Jon hosting his staff and their families at Christmas time. He was very gracious, always unflappable, and every bit a professional.

Some years later, another KMEG veteran – Jack Parris – told me that Jon had left broadcasting and had moved to Arizona, where he was a consumer advocate in the telecom industry. He served as Executive Director of Arizona Competition in Telephone Service (ACTS) and volunteered many hours for AARP. Jack Parris, too, had relocated to Arizona and was working as GM for the public broadcasting station in Tucson. Jack and I would often cross paths at public broadcasting meetings and conspire to get the three of us together on the golf links in Arizona. It never happened.

Jon is survived by his wife, Sharon, four children and six grandchildren.

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