Mike Smith Retires from KSMU

Oct 4, 2006

After 25 years on the job, Mike Smith retired from KSMU last week. Randy Stewart aksed some old friends and colleagues for some reminiscences.

RANDY: Haven Miller is Communications Director for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. He was KSMU's first full-time News Director, and knew Mike Smith in the early days.

HAVEN MILLER: Oh, I remember very well working with Mike Smith back in the very early '80s. Mike Smith is an incredible communicator... and he has great persuasive powers. Mike is a veteran--he was in the Navy for many years--and he was very active in the Vets Club there at Missouri State University, and each year they had a big "Pig Roast." One year, Mike came to me and said, "Haven, I would like you to enter the HOG-CALLING CONTEST!" And I said, "Absolutely NOT--I'm not gonna do that!!" And anyway, one thing led to another... and Mike actually talked me into entering the Vet's Club Hog-Calling Contest. Now, I'd been on the stage many times back in my student days at Missouri State, but that's the only time I was in a hog-calling contest! In the years since I left Springfield and have been living in Kentucky, when I visit Missouri to see my parents I always start tuning in there on I-44--tuning the radio trying to find KSMU, and listening for those familiar sounds and hearing that voice of Mike Smith. And when I hear Mike's voice, I know that I've got the right radio station, I'm listening to KSMU, I'm listening to my old friend Mike, and I know that I'm home again.

RANDY: Jenny Fillmer Edwards, now Public Information Officer for Greene County, was one of Mike's student news reporters a few years ago.

JENNY FILLMER EDWARDS: When I think of Mike I think about, firstly, what a dedicated journalist and radio man he has always been, and also what a passionate guy he is. During the week of September 11th (2001), of course it was very serious, and things were very grim. And they announced that there would be a memorial on the campus of MSU, where they were going to ring the bells in the carillon tower at noon. And Mike wanted to capture this for the radio and be able to play it on the news, and I was assigned to go and record this. Now, Mike's a man that's all about "clean audio," to record what is actually happening at the scene, and emphasized that I needed to get some good, clean audio of these carillon bells tolling at this very sombre moment--spoke about it over and over again. Noon rolled around and I stepped outside to record the bell ringing... and Mike followed me out there. And as soon as the bell began ringing maybe two or three times, Mike, who was standing next to me, can't control himself and says, "Oh, God!"--and then continues to talk about how this is such a moving moment. Well, I'm rolling tape and recording everything he's saying, and (laughing) of course my audio had Mike on it, and he ruined his own "natural-sound bed"! Of course it was very serious when it happened, but it became funny when I retold it. And it really was the first time that we were able to laugh after September 11th.

RANDY: Don Hendricks, Director of University Communications here at Missouri State, worked with Mike for eight years on the weekly "SMS and You" feature, now called "Missouri State Journal."

DON: It's been a wonderful relationship working with Mike, and we've had a lot of fun experiences doing the show. One show in particular that I remember, we had a gentleman, a visiting scholar from Tajikistan who was here. And we were told that his English was "very good"... and on scheduling the interview found out that it wasn't, maybe, that good. So the five-minute show ended up being a THIRTY-minute show, which we took probably two or three days to edit down to five minutes! We used to keep records on the number of edits that it took to put a final show together... I'm sure that one remains the all-time record!

RANDY: Local journalist Ron Davis was KSMU News Director in the mid-1980s.

RON DAVIS: Everyone who knows [Mike Smith] knows he's really dedicated to his job at KSMU. But there was a time a few years ago where Mike Smith woke up one morning and thought he was having a heart attack. So he did what every broadcaster does, which is go in to work, record some breaks, and then call the hospital ahead of time to let them know he's on his way! Then he had his angioplasty, and.... And you think, you know Mike Smith takes his job so seriously. And you know this--we all know this--he really works with students, he really labors over his job. But I'm telling you, when a guy is having a heart attack and thinks, "first I've got to record these breaks for 'Morning Edition'"--that, my friend, is a broadcaster! But it's also just that singlemindedness that he brought to the way that he would teach students, and the way that he taught me in terms of broadcasting, getting on the microphone, letting people know what's going on. And there are countless people across the country that learned at the knee of Michael H. Smith, and now they're plying their trade everywhere. So he's really had a profound impact on the media.