John Steed retiring after 51 years at WBTV

Updated: Sep. 27, 2019 at 7:52 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s the end of an era at WBTV today. John Steed is retiring after working at the station for 51 years. That’s the longest anyone has ever worked at WBTV.

You may not recognize John, but you’d sure recognize his work - as he is considered one of the finest photographers in the television business.

If nothing else, John Steed is a creature of habit. Practically every day for more than 40 years, he’s stopped by Bojangle’s on his way to work to pick up breakfast. His usual is a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, a biscuit, and a cup of coffee.

He’s been going to the Bojangle’s on Freedom Drive in Charlotte for so long that the staff oftentimes has his order ready as soon as he walks in the door. He knows all the employees and many of the customers who come here regularly.

About the only thing John’s been doing on a regular basis longer than stopping at Bojangle’s, is coming to work at WBTV. He started working here on June 8, 1968. That’s 51 years ago!

He came as a photographer, and over the years, he and developed a reputation as one of the best in the business. He says he’s had a passion for photography as long as he can remember. When we interviewed him on camera, he was not very comfortable, saying, “The Lord didn’t mean for me to be on this side of the camera! He meant for me to be behind the eyepiece, looking at somebody else (laughs)!”

Over the years, John has won numerous awards. First shooting stories for the news department, then moving into creative services where he’s shot commercials, documentaries, musicals and other specials you’ve seen air on WBTV.

He says it was never work, “It was like doing a hobby and getting paid for it. So I was having so much fun that I never even thought about how long I’d stay here or actually whether I’d live to be this old! (laughs)” One of the highlights of John’s career...he was the first photographer for Carolina Camera, the popular feature that began back in 1970.

He and host CJ Underwood crisscrossed the Carolinas to bring back fascinating stories of people and places. John filmed one of the most iconic stories ever to air on WBTV. One he considers the most memorable, “Willard Watson on the Carolina Camera. He was a mountaineer. CJ and I went up there...and shot him...and he still had a still that he, that the government let him keep for demonstration. And so he set that thing up and went through all the motions of making double still moonshine...”

Fifty-one years at one place.

John says the key to that longevity was his ability to adapt, “Change. Willing to change. Wanting to learn something different. Because, you know, when I came here we’d just started shooting color film with mag stripe. State of the art. The mag stripe gave you better sound. Went from there to video, video tape. You know, I enjoyed evolving with that.”

Now, there were times when he got offers to go elsewhere, but he says he turned them all down. “John Green, who used to work here as news director, called me and offered me a job,” he says, “and I told him what it might take to bring me down there, and he said, ‘well we can’t pay you that much’...(laughter)! But then I had other opportunities, but I never had one that seemed to be better than what I already had.”

We at WBTV are all the better that John never did leave. But now he is, and he says, “I’ve got mixed emotions, really. I love these people here and love what I’ve been doing, and I’m going to miss everybody. But I’m excited about the next chapter. I’m looking forward to getting two new knees and then moving on from there!”

John’s going to have knee replacement surgery soon, so we certainly wish him the best for that. Once he’s back up and running, you can expect to see John working on restoring his beloved 1970 MGB roadster, as well as do some traveling. And he’ll be spending a lot of time with his nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Plus, we’re sure his wife Margie will need him to do a few things around the house as well.

Good luck, John!

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