Sometimes the news we share during this segment is sad, and so it is as we start this week with a farewell to Former KBTX News Director, Mike George.
Mike passed away at age 51, a true shock since most of this news staff was hired or mentored by Mike. We remembered his career during services at First Baptist Church of Bryan a week ago Saturday. I never thought I could afford Mike when he first brought up the idea of coming back here as News Director in 2008, but as life will do from time to time, it was indeed the perfect storm. Mike was at a point in his life where he needed to come home, needing us as badly as we needed him.
Our relationship wasn't the definition of harmony. Behind closed doors, we went toe to toe on issues I felt were important. But when the meeting was over, we spoke with one voice. The stakes were high for Mike - and for me. We both have a deep passion for KBTX, the communities we serve, and for the art of journalism, an art form that has been under extreme scrutiny.
So among the passionate arguments came a better product because of Mike George's leadership. We shared the philosophy that raising the standard is what leaders should strive to do. And that he did, leading KBTX to an unprecedented number of awards during his tenure, over 100 to be exact including coveted awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the station's first Emmy Awards, one of the gold standards of local television the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the list goes on.
Journalists left here and went to large and major markets because Mike was a teacher. And our theory has always been that we don't want to hold back talent that wants to leave. Rather, we want them to excel at their craft. Just send us another one just like them.
Mike came at a time when KBTX was seeing increased competition, and, as he did to help transform this newsroom with Jeff Braun in the late 80s and early 90s, he made a difference, increasing ratings to our largest margin in decades.
Mike had left KBTX to tend to family matters, still living here, building a home here with his wife Ginnie, and dropped by with breakfast for the staff, posted pictures to the Facebook page for KBTX or otherwise stayed connected to the staff he loved.
When someone leaves so suddenly, it is a wake-up call. Nice things were said about Mike during the service. I wonder how more encouraging it would have been to tell him those things while he was right in front of us. Do we do that enough for each other now while those we treasure are by our side? Sadly, no. In fact, this segment will return in future weeks with more of the biting comment intended to hurt, as we live in a society that wants to crucify instead of rectify. We learn from all comments as I've said before, and sometimes the way it's said doesn't set well, but more times than not, there is truth in those sharp comments.
Mike George took those things and used them for good. It was a different situation, but I remember the words of a friend of mine Dr. Buzz Pruitt. I'll customize it for Mike George. The best way KBTX can honor Mike George is to continue what he started, to stay focused on being better at what we do, to learn compassion for all who hit on hard times, and keep growing and getting better every day.
Be in touch anytime. This remains a partnership that has grown for 57 years. We are counting on you, and are honored you count on us.