Throwback Thursday: Tad Rules Reno TV

People come and go in television news. Stability is rare, especially in small to mid-range markets.

Considering that, Reno, and especially, Channel 8 viewers, have been well served.

There's always been a core of news people here who stayed and became part of the community. That gave their work a perspective others, regardless of their talents. couldn't match.

No one fit that description better, longer than Tad Dunbar.

He was born in east Texas, broke into broadcasting as a radio D-J at age 15. But at 19 started doing news and it clicked. He became News Director of a Abilene television station at 22, then worked his way through other Texas markets.

1969 found him contemplating a possible offer in Denver. Then came a call from Reno.

"Like everyone else in this business I'd moved every two years through my 20's," says Dunbar, "and when I got to Reno, I fell in love with it and said 'This is it. I'm not going anywhere.'"

The Reno he found was a change from Texas, smaller than it is today, but as it has always been, what people in the business call and "good news town."

"It's certainly less true now than it was then, but in those days if you wanted to talk to the governor, you picked up the phone and talked with the governor or you went down there and got your sound bite. Everyone was more accessible."

And it kept Dunbar and his small staff busy.

"I regularly did maybe three stories a day from the field like that. I know I once did six stories in one day. You'd go out on your way to something, see something else and shoot it."

In 1980 he found himself at the center of the story.

An inmate in the Nevada State prison had taken staff nurses hostage. He had complaints about prison conditions and he would only negotiate with Dunbar.

"And I went down there and the prison psychologist, the assistant warden and I conducted the negotiations to get the nurses out.

"The next day the station did a story on the negotiations and the hostage taking and getting the nurses out. I didn't write that story because I was part of it, but I did a separate story on the conditions at the prison."

As time passed, newscasts became more complicated, tying him to the newsroom to produce and write.

There he had few equals.

"His greatest talent I think is as a wordsmith and knowing a news story when he sees it," remembers former KOLO News Director John Howe..

In 2007 Tad and the station parted ways. There was a final broadcast, followed by a party across town and in Las Vegas a month later a lifetime achievement award from the Nevada Broadcasters Association.

His presence is still felt. There is still today a plaque in our newsroom that reads in part "Thank you for 38 years of leadership and service to the people of northern Nevada."

It was an extraordinary run

"You begin to feel over the years like you know everybody in town and everybody knows you. And I don't know if I could live somewhere where that wasn't true. I've become so used to it," says Dunbar.

"I would back up and relive it from the beginning in a second. It was so much fun."


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