Tag: KVUE-TV Austin

Joe Ellis

2021 Jason Hightower Award for Broadcast Excellence

(Published 2021)

(Former TAB Chairman Ben Downs, Bryan Broadcasting, wrote and presented the following remarks as part of the awards presentation during the TAB2021 Convention & Trade Show, Aug. 3-4, 2021)

Joe Ellis

I’m very pleased that TAB has chosen to recognize Jason Hightower with an award in his honor.

Jason was the person we all wanted to be when we grew up.   He had a wonderful family: Ingrid and children Brazos, Wyatt and Halee Grace.   

He had the respect of everyone who knew him. He served his industry in Austin and in Washington.  He moved into ownership. And he owned what everyone secretly wants to own… An Aggie ring.

He also owned one of the great full service local radio stations.  KMOO in Mineola.  A local station that broadcast the daily Country Store.  The station with vehicles painted like cows.  Fundraisers, free airtime, and every phone call answered with a cheerful greeting of “Howdy, K-Moo.”

Jason and I worked with and opposite each other in College Station where we were united in the shared adversity of being Aggies.  And when it came to local radio, Jason caught the radio bug and did a lot more with it than most.

He was the voice of East Texas.  He loved local radio and the people loved him back. He lobbied for the free flow of information act in the Texas Legislature and educated our reps in Washington DC about the value of local radio.  

He was a Board Member.  He was that guy who got called when something had to be done, and when getting it done mattered. He fought the good fight.  Jason was really good at that.  

When the FCC Chairman was blowing our hair back in anger, Jason knew that was the time to fold your presentation up and listen politely.  If a congressman confused us with something he heard on XM, Jason was gentle in his correction.

He really was good at that.  Austin, Washington, Wood County.  He understood in his heart the duty broadcasters have to serve their communities and could tell people in positions of power how he was doing it with KMOO.

But when he was 33 years old, the tumor showed up and a different sort of battle began.  The first surgery was successful, and things were looking good.  But, Jason was a realist.  

The TAB approached him to serve on the executive committee which would ultimately lead to being Chairman of the largest state broadcast association in the US.  When we talked about accepting, he spoke plainly and told me, You’re asking me for a five year commitment.  You know I have brain cancer, right.  Are you crazy?  

I told him whether it was five or 50, we needed him doing this.

Ultimately, he said yes and he was one of the great ones.  And he almost made it. He was on the EC for four years and had been chairman for about half a year when he was taken, and we lost someone who had helped make Texas radio great.

He was a legendary broadcaster…at the age of 37.

It’s important to remember when somebody stands out for all the right things like Jason did.  

We can’t afford to lose the example of broadcasters like him. 

When someone works tirelessly for his family, his industry, his community, and yes, this association, we shouldn’t entrust the importance of those accomplishments to the fading memories of just the people who knew him.  

And for that reason, the TAB has instituted a new award for people who have been in the business for 10 years and have already changed it for the better.  

Improving their companies, their communities, the lives of others.  

Because the people who do these things should never be allowed to merge into the background of the day to day.

We should never be so confident as to assume people who do this work will always be the face of our industry.  Because it won’t happen without the commitment of the people in this room and the people like Jason Hightower

Tonight, we honor three people who have made this difference in their communities.

Joe Ellis

Joe Ellis is the executive producer of investigations and news projects at KVUE where he oversees the KVUE Defenders investigative team.

During his 23-year career as an investigative broadcast journalist, Joe covered stories throughout Texas involving government, the law, consumer affairs and environmental issues.

His honors are extensive and include a duPont Columbia Award, a Walter Cronkite Award, six Edward R. Murrow Awards, 16 Emmy Awards, numerous Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Awards, several Headliners Foundation Awards, as well as awards from the National Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists.

Joe is also a past recipient of the Carole Kneeland Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts on freedom of information issues including his efforts to get the Health and Human Services Commission to release information on Covid deaths in elder care facilities.

His work has exposed corruption in government and led to numerous convictions.

One of the most notorious was Joe’s work which exposed a criminal court judge giving a particular defense attorney most of his work and income.

The attorney was also a city councilman with whom the judge was romantically involved.

The funds were deposited into a bank account the judge and the attorney shared.

Wouldn’t you like to read that probable cause statement?  

Because of journalists like Joe, our government works better; our products are safer; and we’re reminded that responsibility matters.

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Mike Wenglar

2011 Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year

(Published August 2011)

TAB’s Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year sets the standard in Texas for working unselfishly and tirelessly toward the betterment of the broadcast industry and has earned the unwavering respect and admiration of his peers.

And this year’s award winner wears a lot of hats.

Mike Wenglar…Engineer…Manager…Station Owner…Volunteer.

Like many broadcasters, Wenglar’s interest in all things electronic and the world of broadcasting began early in his life. He was born and raised in El Campo and during his sophomore year of high school he began working at KULP-AM 1390 doing a show called “Mike’s Corner.”

Later, he renamed it “The Mikey Wikey Show,” complete with custom jingles.

In addition to his duties at KULP, he worked part-time as a police officer and crime/accident scene photographer for the El Campo Police Department.

After high school he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Biloxi, Miss. He continued to do his radio show via tape until he was sent to a base in Germany.

After leaving the Air Force, Wenglar returned to El Campo and began working with his father’s plumbing business.

A friend told him about a new television station coming to Austin.

He applied as an engineer/technician at KVUE-TV (even though it would pay less than his plumbing job) and in 1971, he helped sign the station on the air.

In less than a year, he was named chief engineer, a position he held until being named vice president/chief engineer in 1989.

In 1993, Gannett Broadcasting awarded him with their most prestigious engineering award for his outstanding contributions to KVUE-TV’s success.

Wenglar has seen many changes throughout the years, but he thinks the most important is how television is evolving into more of a media presence with web streaming and social media.

These new technologies will change how business is done in television with all the resources needed to manage these new aspects of the industry.

The future of television will be affected by broadband and spectrum issues but he strongly believes that “over-the-air broadcasting should be free. It is the American way.”

In 2000, he had the opportunity to purchase KULP, his hometown radio station.

His goal was to keep it the same as he remembered it. The station still features the popular polka-time and swap-shop shows, two staples of small town radio. He has a great point person, Stephen Zetsche, to handle the day-to-day business of the station.

In 2006, KVUE-TV honored Wenglar with an award for 35 years of outstanding work.

“Throughout his 35 years of service he has been instrumental in creating and maintaining one of the most respected television stations in the state of Texas. I affectionately call him ‘the backbone’ of KVUE-TV,” said Patti C. Smith, president and general manager.

“He treats the station as if it were his home away from home…with great respect and love. This attitude is reflected in his work and all of the staff and viewers of KVUE-TV are better for having Mike Wenglar’s service and dedication over these many years.”

Wenglar is convinced that KVUE-TV is the best run station in Austin.

“They have always had good management and good people. They trust me to do what is right for the station.”

Tireless volunteer for TAB

Wenglar’s insight is trusted far beyond the confines of the KVUE-TV studios.

Since the FCC adopted the Emergency Alert System in 1996, he has been an integral part of TAB’s efforts to make the system work as well as possible in Texas, despite considerable resistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

He also advised TAB in the planning and construction of its new home, finished in 1999, and is routinely called upon to help study the potential effect of legislation on broadcast operations.

Reflecting his wide range of interests and passions, Wenglar has served as TAB’s “official photographer” since 1992.

In 1999, TAB awarded Wenglar with a Special President’s Award for his tireless dedication and volunteer efforts.

For nearly 20 years, Wenglar has led the planning efforts for the engineering sessions at the TAB Convention. In 1996, he originated the “Chief Engineer” section of the TABulletin and has contributed to the newsletter on a variety of technical issues.

For the past three years, he has represented TAB’s pioneer/retired members on the TAB Board of Directors.

Giving back to the community

Wenglar has been involved with Austin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired since 1989 assisting them with their reading service. He is happy to provide pro-bono technical service to the organization because he is inspired by those he serves.

He is a lifetime member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers as well as many other organizations including the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, the American Radio Relay League and holds a General Class Amateur Radio License.

He has no plans to retire and is looking forward to working in broadcasting for many years to come.

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