Monday, April 05, 2010

Remembering Bob Phillips

Several years ago, I bought a couple of videocassettes at the Carthage Friend of the Library's monthly used book sale and found a pleasant surprise on each of them.

The labeling on the cassettes indicated they featured Audie Murphy westerns and nostalgic for those movies, which I had watched on Saturday nights when I was growing up, I put the first one into the VCR and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Not only did the tape include an Audie Murphy shoot 'em up, but it also had a complete KODE newscast from the 1980s.

For those who can't take their news without the usual mixture of glitzy graphics and banter between anchors, the newscast would have been unbearable. The graphics were primitive and that's being generous. The conversation between the anchors was short and to the point.

For those, however, who like their news straightforward and to the point, this videotape was a true blast from the past. When Bob Phillips was anchoring the news, you never had a doubt that everything he said was true. He was not one of those blow-dried anchors with the gift of playful banter that we see so often on today's newscasts, the result of focus groups that have told us that we have to have male and female co-anchors, trading off on stories and forcing meaningless chatter on us at times when another news story would be far more useful.

In fact, to look at him, Bob Phillips should never have been anywhere near the anchor's desk. He did not look like a male model and his voice, distinctive and authoritative, but probably ponderously slow to today's viewers, conveyed the seriousness and respect he had for both his viewers and the news.

He was a radio voice for television and even at the time when he graced the local airwaves, he was already an antique and those of us who watched KODE during those years appreciated the value of that antique.

Even after his days of anchoring the news came to an end, Bob Phillips continued to add weight to KODE's newscast with his much-remembered features, "The Phillips Files," with their examinations of the Joplin area's past and unusual, interesting local people.

Bob Phillips died Saturday at age 78, bringing a close to an era when the story, not the pretty packaging, came first.

I miss those days

During the past few years, we were limited to seeing Bob Phillips on advertising for Always Buying Books, a perfect fit for Bob Wolfe's business and guaranteed positive memories for those who remembered Mr. Phillips' days with KODE.


John Ford said...

Well done, Randy, well done.
I grew up watching Bob Phillips on KODE and was greatly influenced by him, KOAM's Lou Martin, Gary Garton with the Globe,Bob James with KQYX and many other "old school" shoe-leather journalists. No surprise that I went into journalism, what with influences like these and my self-educated father's zeal for reading newspapers.
Bob's on-air persona matched his personal one. He was well-informed, and could tell many behind the scenes stories about the current events of the day. He also had a sense of Joplin's history, and how current events tied in with the past. You got the whole story from Bob Phillips.
Truly, Bob Phillips will be missed. Thank you for the tribute to one of the four-states greats.

David said...

Well you boys are probably not old enough but I spent a lot of time watching him with his cowboy club for kids. The name escapes me right now but I bet there are others that will remember it also.

Zeke said...

Watching Bob do the news was a HUGE part of my childhood. Although they may have never sat together, I recall Bob and an INCREDIBLY young Robb Hanrahan: who had nowhere near Bob's gravitas.

A true pro.

Anonymous said...

we could use Bob's professionalism in every facet of journalism today and it would be refreshing to have the same class on the internet and on blogs and web pages....we have too many smear merchants and too few reporters

Anonymous said...

Randy, is there any way to upload a portion of his newscast that you have on VHS for nostalgia sake?

Danny Thomas - KOAM said...

I worked with Bob at KODE. Although I was not in the News Department, our asociation was frequent. He did exude a professionalism and care for the facts of the story that in many ways has been lost. Today, in a fast paced news cycle, many in the business seek speed over accuracy. He additionally seemed curious, never settling for just one side of a story. That may be what I remember most. He didn't seek to scoop or be first, but rather to be right and balanced. We'll miss him.