I just found out this week that one of my all-time favorite people is going to receive a wonderful honor that he richly deserves. I’ve always needed, sought out, and appreciated mentors. I’ve been fortunate to have many, but there are three in particular who have motivated and molded me. All three are men of patience and compassion and I hope to be somewhere in the ballpark of the kind of men they are.
I first saw Joe Langston on the news when I moved to Birmingham from Indiana nearly 30 years ago. It was a Sunday night and I watched him anchor the news from my hotel room. I remember thinking, “This weekend news team is pretty darn good.” What I didn’t know that the Joe and the others who anchored the bulk of the newscast also did Sunday night’s newscast, so I was watching veterans who were very good at what they did.
A few years after Joe retired, I decided to change television stations and over time changed from a weatherman to a news reporter and then a news anchor. When I was offered a job anchoring the news here, I asked Joe if he had any advice. Joe said, “Not really, but I guess I’d have to say that the key to being a good news anchor is sincerity, and once you learn to fake that, it’s really not hard at all.” Joe has always made me laugh.
Another time, when I was still doing weather, he read the last story in the newscast about some frog somewhere that didn’t sound like a frog at all but could bark like a dog. I commented that I’d never heard of a frog that could bark, and Joe said, “Me neither, but I had a dog once that croaked.”
So my friend has one of the best senses of humor of anyone I know, but he’s one of the best news men I’ve ever known too. Getting it right, being accurate wasn’t discussed much; it has just always been expected. Joe is a wordsmith and cares that if we’re going to communicate to people; we can, at the very least, use words correctly and pronounce them correctly. His strong feelings about words and their proper usage isn’t something he’s snobby about. He simply cares, cares very much that we respect the written and spoken word.
Joe and I had lunch for the first time in 1979. When the check came, Joe said, “Look, we’re probably going to have lunch once in a while, so why don’t you pay for yours and I’ll pay for mine and next time we won’t have to wonder whose turn it is to pay for lunch.” We’ve had lunch many, many times and we still use that easy rule today. It’s worked well in our friendship.
Now the word is that Joe Langston will be inducted into the Alabama Broadcasters Hall of Fame by the Alabama Broadcasters Association. There are many wonderful broadcasters who have worked in our state and many who deserve this honor too. But, the folks who chose this year’s honoree have chosen Joe this year and I don’t believe they could have made a better choice. I’ll be honored to share a few thoughts about my friend at his induction ceremony.
I wish young broadcasters could spend time around people like Joe Langston. I believe a few hours with him are worth more than many college-level courses they take now. You can’t teach what made the Joe Langstons of the world. So much of what he has to offer is found not just in the head, but in the heart.
I’ll see you tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.