By Lori Wilson
KSU News Service
Thereís no place like Kansas for Bill Kurtis.
Kurtis, the anchor of three A&E Network series, including the Emmy Award-winning "Investigative Reports," will visit Kansas State University Thursday, Sept. 26, to deliver the third annual Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media.
The lecture, which is sponsored by K-Stateís Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, will be at 1:30 p.m. in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union.
Gloria Freeland, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications and director of the Huck Boyd Center, said she is excited about Kurtisí lecture because of his successful career in journalism combined with his Kansas background.
"Bill Kurtis will bring to K-State his perspective of many years of international media experience, as well as his deep appreciation for small town and rural life," Freeland said.
Although Kurtis, an Independence, Kan., native, left the state more than 30 years ago, Kansas is still an important part of his life. One of Kurtisí current projects is perhaps his most challenging: the revitalization of Sedan, a small community near Independence. After a visit to the dwindling community, Kurtis began buying commercial buildings in the town and turned them into gift shops, restaurants and doughnut shops, charging his tenants only $1 a year in rent. He visits Kansas about twice a month to oversee the project.
His restoration work doesnít stop at rebuilding downtown Sedan. Kurtis wants to create a tourism hub, including visits to his 8,000-acre buffalo ranch and a replica of Laura Ingalls Wilderís cabin. The area, which Kurtisí family owns, was once home to the author of the "Little House on the Prairie." Kurtis also owns part of the largest tallgrass prairie left in the world, which he plans to protect.
Kurtis began his broadcast career at WIBW-TV in Topeka as a news reporter after graduating from the University of Kansas. He earned his big break in 1966 covering the tornado that ripped through Topeka, leaving 16 dead and hundreds injured. After learning of the dangerous weather, he shouted a warning that became synonymous with the deadly twister: "For Godís sake, take cover." He remained on the air for 24 straight hours to cover the destruction.
After garnering national attention for his tornado coverage, Kurtis decided to continue his broadcast journalism career, even though he had recently graduated from Washburn Universityís School of Law and passed the bar exam. He began reporting for Chicagoís WBBM-TV, then went on to work for CBSí Los Angeles bureau. He also anchored the "CBS Morning News" in New York and eventually returned to WBBM as an anchor.
He founded Kurtis Productions in 1990 to produce longer, more in-depth journalism pieces. In 1991 Kurtis began working with A&E on documentaries and investigative series. Besides "Investigative Reports,"
Kurtis anchors and produces the Peabody Award-winning "The New Explorers," a series dedicated to the discoveries of modern scientists.
He also anchors "American Justice," a weekly criminal justice series also on A&E.
Freeland said Kurtis was selected for this yearís Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media because of his dedication to communities and their media, specifically Sedan. In addition to his downtown restoration project, Kurtis bought Sedanís KIND-AM, where he worked as a teen-ager.
He expanded it to include a new FM station. "Thereís a strong connection between strong community media and a strong community," Freeland said.
The Huck Boyd Center, a part of K-Stateís A.Q. Miller School of Journalism
and Mass Communications, works to strengthen community media through education
and research. It was created in honor of McDill "Huck" Boyd, a newspaperman
and politician who believed in community service and journalism. Boyd was
the editor of The Phillips County Review and was a Kansas gubernatorial
candidate twice. He also represented Kansas on the Republican National
Committee until his death in 1987. The center has sponsored two previous
lectures. In 1999 Bob Dole, former U.S. Senator and Republican presidential
candidate, delivered the inaugural speech. In 2001 former U.S. Sen. Paul
Simon spoke about the importance of international news coverage.