02/08/04 — Carl Kasell honored

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Carl Kasell honored

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on February 8, 2004 2:03 AM

Dr. William Friday and the production crew of "North Carolina People" arrive at the Walnut Creek Country Club to do something they don't normally do: Tape an episode of the UNC-TV series in front of a live audience.

The subject must be someone quite important. Could it be ... Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

One hundred and seventy-five people pay $50 a ticket to honor the special guest, watch the interview, and enjoy cocktails and dinner afterwards. Who could attract this kind of attention?

Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

An old-timey microphone is placed next to a beautiful flower arrangement in the lobby. In the ballroom, there is a large ice sculpture carved in the shape of a microphone with the letters WGBR on top, and several of Bobby Parker's old-timey radios are being used as decorative centerpieces on the tables.

This man's return home to Goldsboro is really being celebrated in style.

He must be ... Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

Last, but certainly not least, a Foundation of Wayne Community College scholarship is established in his honor.

For years to come, people will get the opportunity to acquire an education, in part, because of his achievements.

The honoree is .. That's right! Carl Kasell, the official judge and scorekeeper for the National Public Radio's quiz show, "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" and a newscaster whose 50-plus-year career includes being with NPR since 1975.

A member of the Goldsboro High School class of 1952, Kasell earned his college degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he worked with Charles Kuralt as a radio announcer at WUNC-FM. He was a morning anchor and newscaster at WAVA in Washington, D.C., and of course, has a long career with NPR.

His work has won a number of awards, including the Leo C. Lee Friend of Public Radio News Award and the Public Radio Regional Organization Award.

But he started here. Yes, he was a morning disc jockey and newscaster at WGBR until 1965, but the start came even sooner. He was a first grader, and his class did a Christmas program that aired on WGBR.

"I sang a song," he told Friday. "I launched my career then."

"An Evening With Carl Kasell" took place Friday night and began with the taping of the television interview. Among the facts learned were that Kasell begins his day at 1:05 a.m., and by 5 a.m. has read and listened to the day's news and written his copy for "Morning Edition."

He continues the schedule he developed when his children were young and he wanted to spend time with them. He takes a nap in the afternoon, is awake during the evening, takes another nap and then goes to work.

"Sleep is a waste of time," he told Friday.

He spoke of technological advancements and using news judgment. When asked which story he would choose as the top one for Friday -- the bombing in Moscow or news about the presidential campaign -- he said Moscow because of its immediacy and the loss of life. The political campaign, he said, is an ongoing story.

As for what awaits him five years down the road, he answered that he wants to keep doing what he's doing. Dan Rather and Larry King are in their seventies; Mike Wallace is in his eighties, he said.

"I'm a kid compared to them," the 69-year-old joked. The Kasell interview will be aired on UNC-TV Friday, Feb. 20, at 9 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 22, at about 5:30 p.m., said Bobby Dobbs, director of technical operations for "North Carolina People."

After the interview was completed, Ed Borden announced that a scholarship had been established in Kasell's honor. Money has been contributed, and other contributions will be accepted.

"I'm really touched by that," Kasell said later during a News-Argus interview. "It will go on to help some kid who wants to get into the business.

"This is a great business and a challenging business. The rewards are satisfying."

This is the fifth endowment to be established through the Foundation's Arts and Humanities program. The others are in honor of William Stone, who was at Friday's event, Eugene Mauney, George Trautwein and Linda Heekin.

The idea of honoring Kasell came about after former classmates of his asked that the Foundation bring him back home for a special event, said Jack Kannan, the Foundation's executive director.

His achievements in radio and the fact that he still had local connections made him a good choice, Kannan said.

It was Phil Baddour who suggested that the program be conducted as an interview for Dr. Bill Friday's public television show. Baddour and Bill Dees asked Friday if he would come, and he said yes.

"The production crew has always wanted to interview Carl," Kannan said. And, they liked the idea of doing the interview in front of a live audience.

Kasell agreed to participate, and more detailed planning began. Among the participants in the Friday evening program were Pat Turlington and Charles Norwood. Greeting the public were WCC president, Dr. Ed Wilson, and the college's student ambassadors, Leah Heim, Tessa Brannon, Shannon Lynch and Sylvan Bynum.

Several of Kasell's family members and classmates were present, as was Vassie Balkcum, who hired Kasell as a high school news reporter when Kasell was a teen-ager.

In addition to Friday night's interview and dinner, classmates of Kasell invited him to a Saturday luncheon at the Royal Tea Rooms.

From 2 until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, a reception was held for him at the Wayne County Museum Wall of Fame.