Lexington media pioneer Sue Wylie announces retirement

ssloan@herald-leader.comMarch 18, 2013 

  • Sue Wylie looks back

    Wylie shared some of her thoughts and stories.

    On the evolution of media: "The world of computers sped everything up so much. When I went to Channel 18 in 1968, the station didn't even own a sound-on-film camera.

    "Our news director would go out and use silent film to tape, ... then he'd record the audio on a tape recorder and run the audio just over the silent film.

    "Now everything is so instantaneous. You can sit on the air with your iPhone, and the stories change from second to second."

    On TV versus radio: "All the years I was in television, I always thought, 'Why would anyone be on radio when they could be on television?'

    "But doing my show completely changed my mind on that. You can actually have a rapport with people and get their reactions. When you're on TV and looking into a camera, you know lots and lots of people are watching, but there's no give and take. I've come to love radio."

    On being called the "Barbara Walters" of Lexington: "I've never met her, but I did stand in for her on some commercials. Many years ago when I was ... in Miami, she and Ed McMahon did some Citgo commercials.

    "They didn't want to bring them back and pay them, I guess, for the wide shots, so I stood in for her.

    "They sent me her clothes down, and a former NFL football player stood in for Ed McMahon. We rode a convertible up to the gas pump."

Sue Wylie, a longtime Lexington talk radio host for WVLK-590 AM and a television anchor before that, announced her retirement Monday.

"I thought about it a long time," she said. "Your heart just tells you when it's time to go."

Wylie leaves a considerable legacy. Recognized as a pioneering woman in broadcasting, she was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 1999.

Wylie entered the media industry in Cincinnati in the 1950s and made her way to Lexington's NBC affiliate, WLEX (Channel 18), in 1968. That followed stints in Columbus, Ohio, and then Miami, where she was that market's first female hard-news reporter.

Her tenure at WLEX lasted three decades, during which she worked as a reporter, an anchor and a public affairs director. She created the show Your Government in the early 1970s, and her guests included Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and several Kentucky governors.

She began her radio talk show while working for WLEX and chose to continue it after retiring from her television job in 1998.

"What I'll miss most is the callers," Wylie said. "Unlike most other talk shows in town, I try to make it almost completely caller-driven. Other shows will take them, but I base my show on caller opinion. That's what I like.

"Some of them are surly. Some of them are silly. But they're all interesting, and I really love them."

Her last day on the air will be March 29.

"This is going to be a big vacancy," said Scott Johnson, WVLK's program and news director. "Sue is just legendary. She has worked so long and so well in this market.

"Sue's knowledge of the community and the politics of Kentucky and the way it all works and who's who — she is just a walking treasure trove of information. That's going to be very, very difficult to replace, not just for WVLK but for the community."

Johnson said the station was committed to keeping Wylie's time slot, 10 a.m. to noon, locally produced.

"It's just a matter of coming to some agreements with people about exactly what form that's going to take," he said.

Wylie complimented her long-time employer for the editorial freedom she's had.

"No one's ever said don't touch this topic or concentrate on this," she said. "It's been a wonderful experience, and it was the same at Channel 18."

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said, "First on TV and now on radio, Sue Wylie has been a touchstone and a role model for any news reporter anywhere, but, especially young women. She is always prepared, always professional, and always persistent at getting the story. Sue has made an enormous contribution to Lexington and to Kentucky."

Wylie said she looked forward to spending more time with her husband, Bob Fox, and her cat, as well as "cleaning out every closet in the house.

"I'm just looking forward to it. I did not want to be the Larry King of Lexington. I didn't want anyone to ever say, 'Is she still here?'"

Wylie declined to disclose her age, putting it this way: "I just had a major birthday in January. I made up my mind that it was the right time.

"I'm just leaving under very pleasant, happy circumstances. In broadcasting, that is getting rarer and rarer to do."


Sue Wylie looks back

Wylie shared some of her thoughts and stories.

On the evolution of media: "The world of computers sped everything up so much. When I went to Channel 18 in 1968, the station didn't even own a sound-on-film camera.

"Our news director would go out and use silent film to tape, ... then he'd record the audio on a tape recorder and run the audio just over the silent film.

"Now everything is so instantaneous. You can sit on the air with your iPhone, and the stories change from second to second."

On TV versus radio: "All the years I was in television, I always thought, 'Why would anyone be on radio when they could be on television?'

"But doing my show completely changed my mind on that. You can actually have a rapport with people and get their reactions. When you're on TV and looking into a camera, you know lots and lots of people are watching, but there's no give and take. I've come to love radio."

On being called the "Barbara Walters" of Lexington: "I've never met her, but I did stand in for her on some commercials. Many years ago when I was ... in Miami, she and Ed McMahon did some Citgo commercials.

"They didn't want to bring them back and pay them, I guess, for the wide shots, so I stood in for her.

"They sent me her clothes down, and a former NFL football player stood in for Ed McMahon. We rode a convertible up to the gas pump."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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