Paul Young, veteran newsman and television anchor, made the transition from radio to television broadcasting, and has covered one of the most interesting and contentious periods in American history.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Idyllwild resident Paul Young grew up in radio broadcasting and made the transition to television news in the 1950s. Born in Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin’s radio broadcasting program, Young got his first jobs in radio in Texas — in Bay City, Harlingen and Corpus Christi.

“I began as an announcer, pitching products and doing voice overs” said Young. “I even did disc jockey work in the early years. Then I got into news, inspired by a woman reporter who was great in her job. She had the connections and knew how to get the story.”

In Corpus Christi, the owner of radio station KEYS started a television station, KRIS TV, an NBC affiliate. It was there that Young made the transition to the new medium that would become his career home. “We did everything,” said Young, “reporting, anchoring and producing. Newscasts were only 15 minutes long, so you had to write tight. There were only two reporters. We had early news at 6 p.m. and late news at 9. I was this young guy in this new medium. I was excited to be in this. It felt great.”

In 1960, Young moved to KFDA in Amarillo as an on-air anchor and reporter. He was 30, married to his college sweetheart Fredricka and a young father. It was while at KFDA that Young had two of the most indelible experiences as a reporter.

The station got a tip that President Eisenhower and his wife Mamie would come through Amarillo by train returning to Washington from Palm Springs where Ike had been golfing. No other station had the scoop and Young was there as a reporter as the president spoke to the crowd from the platform on the train’s last car.

“I was throwing questions out to the president. We were the only station there. And Freddie had brought the kids to see the president. We got the story. And I’ll never forget the feeling of exhilaration of getting the story when no other reporters were there.”

The other seminal event in his life as a reporter was when the station owner sent him and a cameraman to Oxford, Mississippi, to cover the tense situation when James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi, the first man of color to do so. Federal troops had been dispatched by the Kennedy administration to ensure Meredith’s safety.

“We had talked with the Texas Highway Patrol troopers prior to leaving Amarillo and they had contacted the Mississippi Highway Patrol so that we got right on campus with no trouble,” Young remembered. “A reporter from New York did not get on campus. Security was very tight. At night, the crowds were growing, and the situation was very tense. There was tear gas and cars had been set on fire. Anything could have happened. One of the radio stations in Oxford was broadcasting ‘Bring your guns and come to Oxford.’”

Young and his cameraman knew to keep their cameras carefully under wraps, so the crowds could not see they were filming. “We did not have our cameras out,” he recounted. “We knew better. Another reporter was filming the crowd’s growing hostility. People grabbed his camera and threw it into the air while the crowd began rocking the reporter’s station wagon with his wife in it. It was all very volatile. I was doing voice over and my lead was, ‘There will be blood on the streets tonight.’ The next morning, the campus looked like a war zone.”

During the three days Young and his cameraman were in Oxford, federal troops stabilized the situation. “They had set up a stockade and made many arrests,” Young remembered. “Crowds dispersed.

“We went back and interviewed Meredith some years later in his home town. He was very articulate and thoughtful,” said Young, “but there was obvious tension in his neighborhood seeing a newsman there.”

In 1963, Young moved to ABC affiliate WMAL in Washington, D.C. He was hired as a reporter and on-air presenter. “I was put on assignment anywhere in the city,” he recalled. “It was exciting being a beat reporter. There were so many experiences meeting people and being away from the station, sort of on your own.”

Young became weekend news anchor and news manager, managing the television news department.

While at WMAL, Young reported on the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King. He also was assigned to cover the Hill, meeting and interviewing senators and representatives from states and districts in which WMAL had affiliate stations, congressional heavyweights such as Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn and Strom Thurmond. “It was a time of congressional congeniality,” said Young. “After a contentious session, people would gather in the Speaker’s office for Jack Daniels. Elected officials worked together.”

Young concluded his D.C. career working in media relations first for the federal government, at the U.S. Department of Transportation heading news media relations, handling all media requests, writing and putting out press releases and audio cuts. Later, he served in a similar capacity for Washington Gas Company in news media relations and marketing.

In 1995, Young retired to his 5-acre home with horses in Gainesville, Virginia. “We gardened and volunteered,” he remembered. “I gardened more than we could eat. I went back to college at George Mason University auditing courses in which I was interested. I had a ball.

“We moved to Idyllwild in 2017 because all our kids were out West. Freddie and I have been married for 67 years. She raised our kids and had her own career. She had been a drama major at UT and became a product spokesperson at our Corpus Christi television station. She taught ballroom dancing to young people sixth grade through high school.”

Looking back over a long and distinguished career, Young reflected. “The days of Edward R. Murrow are over,” he said. “Then we had better journalists, better researching, more thorough coverage of subjects.” He noted that with 24-hour news cycles, the depth of coverage has slipped. Fact checking has eroded. News has become entertainment.

“I remember when I first got into radio and television, everything was live and fast-paced,” he noted. “But we always tried to get the story right before it went on air. We did not sacrifice accuracy for speed.”

Young in interview is a soft-spoken gentleman, with the gentility of his Southern roots. He is urbane and steeped in history. In listening to the story of his career, one is struck by the breadth of events he has covered, both in Texas and in the nation’s capital during some of the most important moments in our country’s history. He was there, and he got the stories.

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