By Judith Salkin
There aren’t a lot of news anchors working today who were around for the events of Nov. 22, 1963 to the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage.
At 64, CBS Local 2 evening anchor Kris Long’s memory stretches back to watching the men like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley who shaped early news reporting, to the latest crops of grads who will someday take over the rapidly changing face of broadcast journalism.
“Obviously there are some young people who won’t make it,” Long said earlier this week. “But there are also some, who with a little mentoring, certainly have the ability in 10 or 15 years to take news to the future.”
Considering the turn toward younger reporters and anchors, Long could be considered one of the deans of broadcasting after more 40 years in the business. His career “magical mystery tour” has taken him from small stations in Iowa to major markets such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Phoenix before landing him in the Coachella Valley in 2005.
Long before that, Long was born in Michigan while his parents were in college. He lived near Detroit and Memphis, Tenn., as a kid and started his college career at the University of Oklahoma before earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas. “In those days we didn’t get degrees in broadcast journalism,” he said.
In fact, Long wasn’t looking at a career in news. “I wanted to be a sports guy,” he said. But in 1975 when WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, offered him his first broadcast job doing news, “I took it,” he recalled. “And I don’t regret it.”
By 1987, Long was working in Chicago. “That was a nice opportunity,” he said of his six year stint in the Windy City. Unfortunately, when another long-time Chicago anchor became available, Long got bumped out of his spot and ended up in Phoenix working with an old news director.
Out of work again in the early 2000s when the station went through a major shake-up, Long was once again looking for work.
At the time, his daughter Hillary was in high school. “We decided that I’d look for something within driving distance,” he said. What he found was an anchor position at KPSP CBS 2. “It was a market drop for me, but it was drivable. It’ll be nine years next April and I have no plans to retire anytime soon.”
For the first 18 months, Long made the long weekend drives to his home in Scottsdale while living in an apartment here in the valley. Once Hillary was in college, his wife made the move.
Outside of work, Long and his wife like to spend time exploring California, at places like Idyllwild, Lake Arrowhead, Santa Barbara and recently, Ojai, on the list. “We haven’t been to the Sierras yet, but there’s time,” he said.
Without the rivalry of big city stations, Long likes getting together with other anchors for a weekly game of golf. “John (White) has been a golfing buddy since before out stations merged,” he noted. “We used to get together with Gino (LaMont) more often but he had to go and have a baby at 50!”
For all his own good fortune, Long likes having the ability to donate his time to causes that are meaningful to him, like United Cerebral Palsy, an association that started more than 35 years ago.
He’s on the board, but rarely makes the board meetings, he said. “They’re once a month on Monday at 6 p.m.,” he added. “But I emcee a couple of events and play in the golf tournament.”
He’s also associated with ChildHelp USA, an organization that helps teens and attends or emcees events for other local charities and organizations. “If I can help by playing golf or telling a couple of jokes, I’ll do it if I can,” he said. “And I do as many as I can.”
For Long, the move to the Coachella Valley has been a good one. “There are a lot of guys my age that have been out of the business and know that they won’t get another job,” he said. “I know I’m lucky and I have no intention of leaving.”