HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - How do you condense more than 40 years in the television news business into a few minutes? It's almost impossible. But we’ll give it a shot.
When Gregg Stone was in high school, he said, “I had no idea I'd be getting into the broadcast industry.” But he found a career. “Right at 42 years,” he said.
Gregg worked at ETV while going to school. That opened the door to WHNT. “About a year after I graduated, I got hired,” he remembers. It was the start of a career in television news that has lasted almost 40 years.
“It's been an amazing journey,” he recalled recently sitting in the studio surrounded by cameras and some past-memories. That journey took him close to newsmakers. “It's been an amazing opportunity to go places and meet people and see things that the general-public doesn't have access to,” Gregg said.
We both remember being on a platform at the Shoals Airport when President Jimmy Carter decided to greet people at the fence after getting off Air Force One. The crowd behind us started surging forward to get closer to the president.
“I was about to fall over on the President of the United States and so it took everything to try to keep people from pushing behind me to reach in and get a handshake,” Gregg said. But he kept his balance. “I was so nervous during that time,” he said. “I thought this would not go well.”
Gregg has had a front row view of history the past 40 years. He smiled and said, “That was part of the fun of doing it.” He covered assignment ranging from following the career of the country music group Alabama to traveling to Florida to capture the first and final launch of the space shuttle. “That was awesome. I do not take that for granted,” he said.
He watched it all through the viewfinder of his camera. “You have one camera,” he said. “Do you shoot the thing going up, the shuttle going up? Or do you shoot the people and the reaction?” He made the right decision, turning the camera around to capture the emotion of those sitting in the stands. “There's people crossing their fingers and there's tears,” he recalls. “And I thought, I'm glad I did what I did.” It was a better way to tell the story. “Yeah, the human side of it,” he added.
But not every assignment is fun. He used his light on his camera after the Airport Road tornado to help search for victims in the rubble of a shopping center that was leveled. “It felt good that you're trying to help people,” he said. “Not only were we trying to document the rescue, but we were being a part of that rescue.”
It's been a memorable career. “I had a chance to go to an aircraft carrier and do a carrier landing and take-off,” he said. “That was thrilling. I'd do that again over-and-over again.” But then there was the flight over Huntsville with some ROTC students from a local high school. Gregg turned greener than the C-130 he was in flying over the Rocket city. “Yeah, that did not go well,” he said laughing. “We'll leave it at that.”
Gregg Stone has spent four decades capturing images to help us tell stories. “That's my job,” he said. “That's what I do and I enjoyed it. I really did.” He’s leaving WHNT News 19 at the end of the year. I asked him if he’s ready for a different view of the world. “I think so,” he replied. It will give him more time to spend with the people he loves. “Family is very important,” he said choking up a little. “This business can be very hard on families. Because of what we do, we're away a lot sometimes unexpectedly, being on call 24-7.” He hopes to make up for lost time. “Yeah, taking time to do that,” he said. “Just enjoy it,” I said. Gregg smiled and said, “I'm going to do my best.”
During his career, Gregg has been honored with more awards than we can remember. But perhaps his biggest came in 2013. Gregg was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle by the Nashville/Midsouth Chapter. That honor is reserved for people who've made significant contributions to our industry for 25 or more years. And nobody deserved it more than Gregg Stone.
On a personal note, Gregg and I have worked together for almost 40 years. He's not only one of my best friends, I consider him family, a brother. He's been my right hand when it comes to telling a good story. He always found that beauty shot that added something heartwarming or captured the emotion in the story we were trying to share with our viewers. He saw things through a camera lens that I would have never noticed. Enjoy the next step in this journey we call life Stoney. Good luck. We love you and we'll miss you!