WBTV's first African American reporter

By Dedrick Russell - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV is celebrating 60 years on the air, and on your side.  During our anniversary, we got reacquainted with the people who helped make WBTV what it is today.

Recently we talked to the station's first African American reporter.

His name is Ken Kootz. And the year was 1969.

"It was the first opportunity for an African American in the newsroom," Koontz said. "And I happened to be the lucky one to get it."

Koontz remained at the station for about14 years.  During that time he reported the good and the bad. One story he remembers is when the Ku Klux Klan gunned down blacks in Greensboro.

"I happened to have been on duty in the newsroom at that time," Koontz told WBTV. "And to have gotten the pictures back, and to have seen the cold blooded pictures of murder, that was single most impactful story."

Despite the negative Koontz says WBTV always remembered the commitment to its viewers.

"This station was good, very strong in creating and providing changes that were ultimately coming," the former reporter said. "WBTV was a leader in bridging those gaps."

While he was going down memory lane, Koontz remembered the daily newsroom challenges.

"We had newsroom competitions," Koontz said. "Who is going to have the lead story. We had beats and we worked those beats. We worked those source everyday. The greatest thing about it was when we broke a story at 6 o'clock, we watched the competition follow it at 11 and read in the newspaper the next day when they were quoting our story."

Kootz is still in the media. He runs a Charlotte website dedicated to news. So as we celebrate 60 years in broadcasting we thank people like Ken Kootz for making WBTV's legacy strong in the community.