Wednesday, September 30, 2020

An Open Letter to J. Kristopher


I should have done this years ago.  WNEP's J. Kristopher, Stephen Kotch, celebrated a birthday yesterday.  I'm sorry it took me so long to express some thoughts.

Dear Stephen:

I hope you had a good birthday yesterday, and I know it's been a lousy year.  Losing two loved ones in a short amount of time must be extremely difficult, and my heart goes out to you.  I admire how your faith guides you.

I should have said this during the time we overlapped at WNEP, and I clearly should have spoken up in the days leading to your retirement.  I was embarrassed to open my yap.  It's a confession.  I snuck in to the old WNEP backyard in Avoca, a couple of times, to watch you do the weather while I was in high school.  It was 1978 or 1979, possibly both.  I wanted to be in broadcasting and more importantly, I wanted to be you.  You did news, sports, weather, play by play, telethons, interviews, Dialing for Dollars...  You were the guy every young "wanna be" broadcaster wanted to be.  Thank you for the words of encouragement on those nights I trespassed decades ago.  Thank you more for not calling the police.

I have always said I am luckier than I deserve to be.  I grew up watching the greats.  I had the opportunity to work with many of them during my time in local TV and radio.  I like to think I carry a tiny piece of every one of them, learning their traits, what worked, what didn't, the value of hard work, honesty, and most importantly, decency.

I will never forget the morning the news director walked out of his office to announce an event the station handled was jumping to another outlet.  I remember exactly where you were standing in the office when you said to everyone, "And the sun will rise tomorrow."  J., you right.  The sun did rise, and I have often thought of that line when unfortunate things happened to me.

Your kindness has stayed with me all these years.  Also, I cannot experience a cloudless, comfortable, sunny day without thinking "J. would call this a "sterling" day."

J., thank you for your influence.  Thank you for being a role model.  Thank you for setting a great example.  The current WNEP staff stands on the shoulders of people like you, who built the place and set the standard.  I hope we aren't letting you down.

Once again, happy birthday, and I'm sorry this little note is twenty years late.  I hope there are many sterling days in our futures.

Be well and stay safe.