In our second installment of LocalFolks, I catch up with Sam Walker for this 15 minute “off the cuff” interview.
Sam – the trusted voice of local news – is a Currituck native, Currituck County High School alum and Campbell University graduate, local newsman, radio personality and news director for Beach104 / OBXToday.com
When did you get your start in broadcasting?
That would be my freshman year in high school. Let’s go back to about 1987. I was doing stats on the sideline for the (Currituck) football team and then I would run up to the press box and do stats on the radio broadcast with Tom White and Jimmy Jones on WGAI. That’s what started it all.
Then when Currituck was playing in the 1989 NC High School State 1A Championship game with Swain Co., there was a big ice storm that hit the central part of the state. The crew which was going to announce that game, which included (former Currituck Football Coach) Bob Sapp – coach of the 1980 East Regional Champion team from Currituck – they got stuck couldn’t make it to the game.
So they came to Coach (Donnie) Simpson and asked do you have anybody who can announce the game – this was an hour before the kickoff. I ended up doing play by play for the eventual Heisman Trophy winner and number one NFL draft pick – that was Heath Shuler.
And it just snow balled from there
Where and when was your first paying radio gig ?
90.1 WCCE, Campbell University’s little 3000 watt FM station in Buies Creek. I started doing things there in 1992 and went from being a producer on their high school football coverage, to eventually doing the morning show and play by play for Campbell basketball and baseball up through about 1997.
I did a little bit of time in a small AM station at the same time in Benson, NC, then we moved back here in 1998 that was my first paying job.
Speaking of Benson, did you ever cover Mule Days?
*laughs* Mule Days was always on the weekend and we were going home that weekend. Even when I moved there, we were like “nah, I’m going somewhere else.”
The AM station gig in Benson was just a cup of coffee a couple of weeks, I didn’t have time to drive over there for the few pennies they were paying, so that didn’t last long.
Back to the present – What time does your day start?
My day never ends *laughs* let’s put it that way. There’s really no set time.
It kinda goes like this – I’m not sure if I want to give up this secret or not – my day will start pretty much with what you hear (news clips) during the morning, that are put together the night before.
So, pretty much, roughly from 7 pm to midnight – I’m searching websites, writing stories, searching social media, talking to people, things like that – putting together the radio side of things the night before.
Yes, all that stuff you hear in the mornings is put together the night before.
For the most part – other than a rare story such as a fire, you know, a rare breaking news situation – for the most part our newscasts are written and recorded the night before. Just like a newspaper, just like most of what you see on the morning shows on TV, it’s done the night before.
For the most part my days run like that. Then I’m at the station usually between 8 and 9 (am) – if I am not doing a fill in on the morning show – to do my airshift.
At the same time if there’s a story to go up on the website – that’s a 24/7 gig. If news happens, you stop what you are doing and you get on it. Whether it’s a Saturday night at 7:30 and you’re at dinner.
When there’s news to be covered, and you choose this business, that’s part of it, especially with a small operation such as ours.
What is the craziest thing that you have every covered?
Wow – you know what, the black out, the Hatteras blackout (July 2017). That would probably be the wildest story that I’ve ever done.
Not just from aspect of what happened and how it happened – just the sheer volume of national and international interest in that story. I mean – I’m quoted in a Section A article in The Washington Post – I was quoted in it.
The amount of interest that came out of that story would probably be the craziest one.
Maybe next would be – I don’t think maybe crazy or just intense – would be the Bonner Bridge closing (December 2013) when they found the sand scoured from around the pilings.
They had to close it, we knew about it, everyone was in this meeting when that broke and we all ran out the door to cover it
Who is the most famous person you have ever inteviewed?
We’ll go to sports now, on the play-by-play side.
I interviewed Mike Krzyzewski in his office in Cameron Indoor Stadium before a Cambell – Duke game. I got to do play-by-play for that game, it was 1997.
Interviewing Coach K for a pregame show for our 3000 watt FM station, in the locker room in Cameron – I would have to say that’s the most famous, I can’t think of anybody who would top that
Eastern North Carolina BBQ. Yes vinegar style.
Home. Heaven. Home
What is your Favorite movie?
It’s hard not to say. everyone is going to say Star Wars. Honestly I’d have to say Caddyshack.
How did you become a UNC Tarheel fan?
Dad – he went there in ’57 – summer school of 1957. So he was in class with Lenny Rosenbluth and Joe Quigg (members of the 1957 National Champion UNC Tarheel Basketball team). It was growing up and dad (telling stories) yep, that’s where that came from.
You are obviously on the move all the time – what do you do to relax?
These days going down YouTube rabbit holes *laughs* And of course, go to Disney – go to Walt Disney World
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Getting up every morning, every day and being able to inform everyone who lives here about what’s happening in their world.
Whether its what we do during hurricane coverage – because I leave my family to fend for themselves during a hurricane and go camp out at the radio station
That’s what we do – that’s the most fulfilling – the most rewarding part of this job.
Being that voice of information and comfort – whatever you want to call it when crisis happens.
Being able to relay information that people need to know, that maybe, makes it easier for them to get through something like that.
Here’s an example – Hurricane Irene in 2011. I had just started 3 weeks earlier at Beach 104.
We had a lady call in from Columbia (NC), whose house was flooding – literally – knowing the situation the way she told it.
She was relying on us to tell her everything was going to be OK.
We all kinda get emotional about it – we were all on the air when that happened. It catches you – Moose, Jodi and myself were in the studio when that happened – I think Scott Summers was there too.
What we do – As silly as we can get on the air – sometimes the stories that we do maybe will have a positive impact on peoples lives. Knowing that when bad things happen here – we can try to make it at least a little bit better – somehow – just by getting the information out and having those comforting words.
Somebody’s here and somebody cares.
You can catch Sam on WCXL Beach 104, OBXToday.com and if you’re lucky you may run into him at Disney World.
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