A goodbye from Rob Caldwell:
Several years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best-selling book making the case that, in a wide number of complex professional or creative fields, “you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”
It’s impossible to say exactly how much time Pat Callaghan has spent anchoring newscasts. But a rough calculation—five hours of news per week, 48 weeks per year, over 43 years—would show that, remarkably, he’s hovering around that 10,000-hour mark. It’s encouraging to know the kid just might be hitting his stride.
Pat came to NEWS CENTER Maine in 1979, working at WLBZ in Bangor until 1983, then moving to WCSH in Portland. In 1989 the station made him co-anchor of the flagship 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. No one has anchored television newscasts in Maine longer, and it’s safe to say no one ever will.
How to account for that longevity? Consider what Pat brought to the job: intelligence, curiosity, an interest in people and stories, high journalistic standards, and—this last one might be the most crucial—an unflagging sense of humor.
In the beginning, he shot film (and developed it!), made calls by dropping dimes into pay phones, timed newscasts on a decades-old adding machine, and banged out stories on a manual typewriter in a newsroom filled with cigarette smoke. The technology has changed, but the mission has not, and Pat has never wavered in his belief that local news matters, that real journalism is a crucial thread in the fabric of democracy.
In this article, you’ll find a number of stories by and about Pat and a farewell collection of greatest hits. As he gets ready to start a new chapter in life, those of us who’ve worked with him have mixed feelings. No doubt he’s earned his retirement, but he’s going to be keenly missed. Too bad we can’t get another 10,000 hours out of him.
Chapter 1: In his own words
Pat Callaghan pens his own goodbye:
When Frank Sinatra retired in 1971, he went out in dramatic style. His closing number was "Angel Eyes," a saloon song written by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent.
As Sinatra sang the final line, "'scuse me while I disappear," the spotlight dimmed and went out, and Frank was gone. Perfect.
My disappearance will be far less dramatic. But after reporting and anchoring for WLBZ/WCSH/6-Alive/NEWS CENTER Maine for 43 years, it is time for me to call it a day.
In late 1979, I made just my second-ever drive to Portland, Maine. (The first was to see an Electric Light Orchestra show at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Worth the drive!).
I was living in Portsmouth, working at New Hampshire Public Television, and looking to take the next step in a career that I imagined would keep me moving around. I thought Portland looked pretty promising, and I felt I could fit in with what I saw on NewsCenter 6. So I sent a tape to WCSH, where News Director Fred Nutter liked what he saw and invited me up for an interview.
Not long afterward, Fred informed me that the company's vice president, the sage Bruce McGorrill, quite correctly thought I needed more seasoning.
So Fred said they were "kicking the tape up to our little baling wire operation in Bangor." That expression didn't exactly fill me with optimism, but I pointed my car north on I-95. I don't want to say that the place is isolated, but we used to occasionally refer to it as "Ice Station Zebra."
What I quickly came to appreciate was what a splendid opportunity I had been given to live in a fine community and learn from the team then in place at WLBZ2. You've heard of at least a couple of them: Bill Green and Don Carrigan. They welcomed me and mentored me, and showed me how covering news in Maine should be done. Get that 16mm film camera on your shoulder and get out there!
Three years later, I moved to WCSH6 in Portland, reporting on weekdays and producing and anchoring the weekend newscasts, something I did for the next six years. It was an exciting time of growth at the old Maine Broadcasting System, in the days when the owners were "in the store," willing to give us the support we needed to produce what we knew could be the best TV newscasts in Maine.
By 1986, the 6 p.m. newscast on WCSH was ranked No. 1, and we've never looked back—and never taken that for granted. We succeed when we give the people of Maine the stories they want to see and the ones they need to see.
We also succeed because of a commitment to public service. From the day Channel 6 signed on in 1953, the owners, the Rines-Thompson family, understood that in exchange for being granted the right to profit from using the public airwaves, we had a responsibility to provide information through our newscasts and support for important community needs.
You may recall some of the public service projects over the years—the annual Sidewalk Art Festival, the Maine State Parade, the "World's Largest Garage Sale," and more. When the Maine Broadcasting System was sold to Gannett (now TEGNA) in the late 1990s, that spirit of public service continued.
I'm proud of the many community projects we have been able to organize and participate in: Coats for Kids, Project Heat, Feed Maine, and Honor Flight. And the credit really belongs to you, the generous people of Maine who always step up to make sure children have warm clothing for winter, oil for their furnaces, and food year-round, and show respect and gratitude for the service members who risked their lives for this country.
In the summer of 1989, I joined the weeknight anchor team with a couple of local legends, Bruce Glasier on sports and meteorologist Joe Cupo. Jan Fox was my co-anchor at the start, then in January 1990, Cindy Williams joined the evening team. The four of us were together on that news desk for 22 years, likely the longest-running four-person team you'll ever see in Maine.
Cindy and I logged 32 years together until her retirement a year ago when Amanda Hill stepped up and seamlessly transitioned to the anchor desk. Never let it be said that I don't keep good company.
One thing I have learned in more than 40 years at this work is that it is a privilege to share peoples' stories and get paid to do it. The job has taken me from coast to coast and beyond, from the Challenger disaster to national political conventions, to Northern Ireland to watch a Mainer negotiate peace. I've encountered some of the world's most famous people, from presidents to Paul McCartney to Muhammad Ali.
While those sorts of milestones tend to stand out in memory, what endures are the countless stories that are told day in and day out through the decades, as a century died and a century was born.
Maine is full of remarkable people who care about their neighbors and work to improve their communities' lives. Through sadness and celebration, triumph and tragedy, you have allowed me to be a part of your lives each day. You have let me know when I've done well and when I deserved brickbats. I thank you all for your trust and your support.
Those of us who are on camera get the attention, but none of it would be possible if not for the engineers who keep us beaming the news out to you, the sales staff who keep the lights on, the directors who call the shots you see, and the newscast producers who stack the shows and make us look good. All of those people epitomize grace under pressure. I'm terribly grateful to them and will always cherish their friendship.
So, what will I do after walking out of the doors at One Congress Square? For a while, I'll learn to live without the adrenaline rush that fuels most journalists and see what it's like not to feel like I'm always behind schedule—lots more time for traveling, too, and learning some new things.
Some people take sabbaticals for that, but it doesn't really work in this job. And I will certainly stay home when the police and the people on TV tell us to keep off the roads during a snowstorm. I've always wondered what that was like.
As for Frank Sinatra's dramatic retirement? Well, it didn't last, and ol' Blue Eyes returned for another lengthy chapter in his career. So, who knows? Maybe we'll see each other again somewhere.
But for now, "Pardon me, 'cause I've gotta run ... 'scuse me while I disappear."
Chapter 2: Pat's most memorable coverage
Pat's top-five most memorable news coverages:
Muhammad Ali visited Maine 30 years after his legendary 1965 win over Sonny Liston in Lewiston.
Pat talks about covering politics at a time when Maine politicians were heavily prominent on the national scale.
Pat talks about his love for covering the New Hampshire presidential primaries.
Pat spent time in Belfast with Sen. George Mitchell during diplomatic talks aimed at ending an age-old conflict in Northern Ireland.
Pat and his photographer traveled to Florida to cover the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which turned out to be one of the darkest days in NASA history.
Chapter 3: Looking back through the years
Here's a look back at Pat Callaghan's career highlights:
PHOTO GALLERY | Pat Callaghan's 43-year career at NEWS CENTER Maine
Chapter 4: Reflecting on a lasting legacy
Co-anchor Amanda Hill sits down with Pat as he reflects on his career:
Pat was part of a news team that worked together on the 6 p.m. weeknight newscast for a consecutive 22 years—one of the longest-running news teams that we could find in the country.
That’s a major success in television news in an industry that doesn’t see people stay in one place for too long as they climb the ladder and move to larger television markets. Pat attributes the success of their team to their individual traits that all seemed to perfectly fill a need.
“With Cindy [Williams] and me, the chemistry showed up fairly quickly, and I think it had to do [with] Cindy was more likely to wear her emotions on her sleeve, and that’s important to a lot of viewers to feel that connection. They can tell she’s feeling what the story’s about, sometimes a little too much,” Pat laughed. “She and I would joke about when she would get to something that kind of chokes her up, she would [start fanning herself] and I knew I had to pick up the rest of the script. In my case, it was trying to be a little more steady and not get wrapped up in the emotions, that part was already there. What we need out of an anchorman is somebody who’s going to let you know we’re going through this, but it’s going to be okay.”
The emotions can come later once the camera is turned off, Pat explained. He’s certainly felt those emotions covering a range of stories, including his live shots from Florida as he watched the Challenger shuttle explode in the sky, carrying New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe.
“It never goes away, something as big as that, in particular. I worked that day of the explosion until after midnight, it happened at 11 in the morning, so I had been there since four in the morning,” Pat said. “So, you’re tired but once you’ve gotten through all of your responsibilities, you’re done being on the air for the day, that’s when you stop and think about what just happened for real and in an emotional way because these were people that, I didn’t know them, but we knew them for their mission and their smiles, and their dedication to the job, and you start to think, ‘What a waste. What a shame that is.’”
Nearly 37 years later, that coverage still affects him.
“The funniest things will bring that up in mind. Sometimes I’ll see a contrail that kind of starts spreading just because of atmospheric conditions, and it looks like a regular cloud, but it often makes me think of what was left in the sky hours after the Challenger exploded—there were still contrails just sitting there in the cold sky of January over Florida,” Pat said.
“I remember on the 10th anniversary spending time with Christa McAuliffe‘s mother, Grace Corrigan, who, for those who don’t know the backstory, I grew up in the same town, we went to the same church, so I knew their family a little bit. I had friends who lived on their street, so on the 10th anniversary I went and visited with her and she had some time to process all this through the years, you can imagine what that was like. And her husband had passed away in the decade, but we talked about whether Christa McAuliffe‘s mission was accomplished, and she said, ‘Absolutely.’ She said, ‘Because teachers come to me all the time and say: I was inspired by what she did and wanted to be a better teacher, or become a teacher. That’s absolutely mission accomplished.’ I thought, 'Well you know, if she can feel better about that, then so can I.'”
Chapter 5: Farewell, Pat!
NEWS CENTER Maine and friends say farewell to longtime anchor Pat Callaghan as he bids adieu to broadcast.
Chapter 6: Bloopers through the years
Sometimes, you just need a good laugh.