Not long after KFOR Oklahoma City sports director Bob Barry Jr. was killed June 20 while riding his motorcycle, the station's three main competitors all contacted Wes Milbourn, KFOR president and general manager, about pitching in with KFOR’s news so staffers could attend the popular anchor’s funeral. That includes Griffin’s KWTV, Hearst TV’s KOCO and Sinclair’s KOKH. Milbourn was deeply moved by the gestures. “All of us grew up in the business together,” he says. “We’re not only competitors, but we’re good broadcasting partners and friends. In times like this, that’s what you need—your friends.”
The stations have offered to provide video of day-of events to KFOR, which is owned by Tribune, to shoot Friday’s funeral procession, and to send staffers over to produce news segments or answer phones during Barry’s funeral. Milbourn said he left it up to his news director to decide how much assistance KFOR needed, if any, but the GM suspected KFOR would take the competition up on its offer.
KOCO sent lunch over to KFOR Monday and is eager to contribute personnel. Brent Hensley, KOCO president and general manager, says the station is only helping out a friend in a time of need. “While we compete, this is about life,” he says. “I just thought it was the right thing to do. It was the least we could do to help.”
Barry was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a motorist, Gustavo Gutierrez, who was charged with causing an accident without a valid driver's license and drug possession.
Milbourn said the KFOR staff is “hurting big time” following the death of the man known as “BBJ.” Male staffers will select one of Barry’s neckties to wear to the funeral, with Milbourn sporting Barry's favorite Green Bay Packers tie. Longtime co-anchors Linda Cavanaugh and Kevin Ogle will trade Barry stories and sentiments from the front of the church, and in a nod to Barry’s rich sense of humor, a reel of his bloopers will air.
The rivals’ generosity has helped the KFOR staffers cope in a difficult time. “I would do the same for them,” says Milbourn, “in their times of tragedy.”
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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