Riverside native, Gene Gleeson, to retire from KABC-TV

gleeson22.jpg Bob Sokolsky

Gene Gleeson (pictured) says it was just the right time.  Fifty years in broadcasting– the last 30 as a newsman at KABC-TV (Channel 7) in Los Angeles — seems to be enough.  So the Riverside native has decided to call it a career, announcing that he will retire the end of this month.

The move follows the departure of Channel 7 Inland Empire bureau chief Bob Banfield (pictured below) who recently stepped down, ending a 43-year career at the station. It also comes the day before the retirement of Gleeson’s long-time friend, Mark Coogan, who is leaving KCBS-TV (Channel 2) on July 1.

banfieldhp22.jpg Gleeson says he and Coogan are getting together Friday and predicts that “some suds” will flow as they reminisce about current and past broadcasting careers.

For the 66-year-old Gleeson it’s been a career that has spanned radio, TV, military service, advertising and such news coverage assignments as successful and unsuccessful space shuttle missions, the Stealth Bomber and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

The Ramona High School graduate bean his career as a teenage disc jockey at KICO in Calexico, moving on to numerous southwestern radio and TV stations including KDEO and KFXM in San Diego as well as the Armed Forces Radio Network.

At one point, he recalls working for four radio stations at the same time. That included KFXM’s San Bernardino outlet during the. time it called itself “Tiger Radio” and kept a live tiger as its mascot.  “I saw the tiger a few times — and never got close to it.” Gleeson recalls.

The station was one of several to be owned by his father, the late Willard Gleeson.  “But that was definitely a different era,” Gleeson says.  But, he adds, “It was a time when stations were really a part of their communities.  The people who had them had a feeling for them.

gleeson2213.jpg “Today we have what I would call the ‘computerization’ of the industry.  The people in charge of the stations don’t give a damn about their communities.  They are around for a few years and then move on.  Now it’s just a matter of making money for the corporation, and nothing else.”

A licensed pilot who has flown his own plane on news assignments, Gleeson says he has several major retirement plans.  “I want to travel,” he declares.  “There are a number of places my wife and I want to see.”

And, he admits, he will want to do more than just visit some of them.  “I’m going to take my digital tape recorder,” Gleeson says.  If we  find something particularly interesting you just might hear me somewhere on the air talking about it.”

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Monday, June 14, 2010

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