HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s rare these days to find employees who have been at a company for 30 years or more, but at WHNT News 19, there are eight of them — and many more approaching that anniversary.
Steve King has been an engineer at WHNT News 19 since 1978.
“It’s great to be able to come in and basically do what you like to do every day, and I think that goes for everybody in the building, because you really have to like TV to be in it,” said King.
Terry Robinson started in 1977 in accounting. Angie Gaines started in 1980 as the general manager’s assistant. Now they both work in the traffic department, making sure commercials run like they’re supposed to. But they’re much more than co-workers. Their friendship has built roots after working side by side more than 30 years.
“We probably know each other better than some of our family members know us. And we work well together, I think,” said Gaines.
Morning anchor Steve Johnson started in 1977 and spent most of his career in the sports department. He’s seen a lot of big changes in that time.
“A lot of days it doesn’t seem that long, it’s just that everybody that’s been here that long, we all look a little older,” said Johnson. “Actually, they all look a little older, let me put it that way.”
Nonda Sloan has been here 39 years. She started as an assistant bookkeeper. Now she’s the vice president and controller at WHNT.
“A lot of people say this is like a family. And it really, truly is. It is a big family,” said Sloan.
Gregg Stone started in 1979 as a photographer. He still shoots, but now is the chief photographer.
“When we have a huge event, like in a tornado disaster or something like that, it’s not only that we’re working with people in the news department directly, we’re working with other departments like the sales department, accounting and stuff, they come and help out. I think that’s kind of unusual,” said Stone.
Someone else you might see around town shooting stories is Dion Hose. This year marks his 30th at the station. He thinks back to times in his life where his co-workers helped him.
“During the tough times. I lost my father and these guys just wrapped their arms around me. It was like, hey, we’ve got you now,” said Hose.
Anchor Jerry Hayes has spent the past 34 years at WHNT News 19.
“I think it’s almost like having a family. I mean we work a lot. And we work together well. And I think the fact that this is our home away from home, it’s our family away from our family, and I think that closeness and that close knit atmosphere that we have with one another makes it that much more enjoyable to be here,” said Hayes.
There have been a lot of big changes since this group started their careers here.
“You have to imagine, when I started in this business, the only thing we had, and it was high tech, was two-way radios, there were no pagers, there were no cell phones,” said King.
“We used typewriters, had short hand, we used to have a printing press that we printed our programming schedules on, now everything is done on computer,” said Gaines.
“I can remember going to our newsroom here and talking about computers, and nobody wanted to give up the typewriters. It was like, computers? No! Please, we don’t want that,” said King.
There was also the big move from Monte Sano to downtown.
“We were on the mountain for a long time dealing with all the snow and ice storms. We got downtown and had this big beautiful building, we were like a big-time TV station then,” said Hose.
And, perhaps, the biggest change of all.
“I think the big change is when we switched from film to video tape, it made a big difference in how we did things,” said Johnson.
Now everything is digital and HD. In more than three decades, technology changed, hairstyles changed, and lives changed. But one thing has stayed the same — the need to play a good practical joke on a co-worker.
“In the early days, there were a lot of practical jokes, and things like that went on, so sometimes you would come in early just to see who was doing what to who that day,” said King.
Jerry’s Horns — an inside joke that’s gone on for more than 20 years.
“Someone took the horns off his desk, I think, and they’ve been traveling from everywhere,” said Hose.
“He has his bull horns that have missing for years from his desk. And they’ve been all around the world. All the way around the country. Different locations. Pictures taken. He has no idea who has his horns,” said Stone.
Just as the horns have come and gone throughout the years, there are many employees who have done the same. They were a part of the WHNT family and always will be, making this unique family what it is today.
“Some of them have done really really well and gone on to bigger and better things. For those of us who are still here, for us, this is our bigger and better thing. This is a great place to work. It’s a great place to raise your family, to raise your kids. And it’s a blessing that now one of my kids has started her career here. It’s a good place,” said Hayes.