By Dan Miller
December 26, 2008
These days there are so many news anchors on Nashville TV stations that I can't even name them all... and, goodness, I'm one of them!
Conversely, from the time the original three stations signed on -- up until the mid-1970s -- there had been so few news anchors in Nashville that they could be counted on your fingers, and everybody in town seemingly knew all of us by name.
But there was only one at the front of the line in Nashville.
That was Jud Collins.
He beat the path for the rest of us.
Jud moved over from WSM-Radio to WSM-TV when the station first signed on the air in 1950.
If you look at the middle photo attached to this essay, you'll see Jud sitting in a very small, completely glassed-in room... the announcers' booth... where he'd read the news on the Esso Report.
He did the news from that booth because there was so much noise in the rest of the radio/TV station... from live commercials, to country music shows being broadcast or rehearsed... that it was the only quiet place to do the news.
Jud became a newscaster at a time when there were no rules on how to do it. The titles "anchorman" and, for certain, "anchorwoman" or "anchorperson" had never been heard.
There were no consultants.
There was no video tape.
There was no teleprompter.
Jud just did it.... and he instinctively did it right.
Like most of us who started in broadcasting many years ago, Jud came into his role as a television journalist... not from a newspaper background... but from the ranks of a radio broadcaster.
In those days, you did more than just work in a radio or TV newsroom.
You did commercials... you drove radio news cars... you did interview shows... you did music shows... you might even sing, or do play-by- play of some sport... you did kids' shows... you did station breaks... you participated in everything that was on radio and television.
Jud even worked for awhile as a Grand Ole Opry announcer.
Ultimately, Jud brought all the skills and talents he developed as a "broadcaster" to the news desk.
He understood the proper, conversational phraseology for speaking on television... and he always comprehended he wasn't speaking to the masses, but to one person sitting in a room somewhere.
He once told me, "That's the trick, you're talking to one person."
Jud was a gifted writer, but preferred speaking without a script when possible.
Not many folks around the station nowadays remember that he also served as news director here at Channel 4 for a couple of years.
It would be an understatement for me to say I was intimidated by Jud when I came here... in my 20s... in 1969.
Jud was Mr. Television... he was the man.
When Jud elected to hang up the anchor duties at just 50 years old... and I was informed -- to my utter surprise -- that I would replace him... I divulge to you that I had nightmares -- literal nightmares -- over a period of several weeks.
Later, on more than one occasion, Jud told me he regretted giving up the anchor desk at such a young age.
He later tried to resurrect his anchor role at Channel 2 but, by then, the market, the industry and the world had changed.
Jud's return to the role of newscaster was short lived.
Jud was a good and generous man, who -- when asked, and sometimes when not asked -- freely offered advice and encouragement to all of us.
Anytime I was indecisive about how to handle a particular guest or situation, Jud was there for the asking.
He'd take off his glasses, stick the tip of the frame in his mouth, ponder for a couple of seconds, and offer simple, inspired advice.
The bottom photo shows Jud standing next to the table where I'm seated on the right, with Teddy Bart on the left, next to Al Voecks.
I had invited them to join me for a Sunday night Miller & Company roundtable discussion.
The theme for that night's show was "Four Anchor People Talk About Things."
When I first saw that photo, I told Jud that it looked like he had a halo of some sort around his head.
He said, "Maybe I did."
Maybe he did.