by Max Marbut
For almost 29 years, Ch. 4 Sports Director Sam Kouvaris has been one of North Florida’s most familiar faces. That’s what happens when you’re on people’s TV screens at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. five days a week .
Kouvaris first went on the air in Jacksonville as a reporter in June 1981 and was named sports director a year later. He said when he unpacked his bags, he had no idea he would achieve such longevity in the market.
“I thought I wouldn’t stay more than two years,” said Kouvaris, referring to the usual shelf life of an on-air personality at any television station. When a station gets a new news director, he or she usually replaces most, if not all, of the staff, he explained.
Kouvaris was the guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. He shared some of his huge collection of stories about sports and the people in the news, but he also talked about how the television business has changed since he began his career.
“When I started in television, I was on the air at 6 (p.m.) and 11 (p.m.) and we tried to keep a local focus,” said Kouvaris. Now he’s part of seven broadcasts each day and tapes two shows before he leaves the station after the 11 o’clock broadcast for Ch. 4’s early morning news. Kouvaris said he also is required to post updates on Twitter, Facebook and the station’s website.
“My job has changed dramatically over the years,” he said.
It’s not just the local news scenario that has changed; it’s the entire industry, Kouvaris added.
“It used to be there was the morning newspaper and the evening news (on television),” he said.
“Today it’s a 24-hour cycle and the Internet has completely changed my job. Now you already know everything I say on TV, so I have to bring the perspective of someone who lives here and raises children here. That’s the fun part of my job,” he said.
Kouvaris said another part of his job is to give local viewers and the people who listen to his radio show and visit his website a viewpoint and insight they can’t find anywhere else.
“If you watch ESPN and CNN Sports, they tell you every day the Jaguars are moving,” he said. “Why do they say that? Because they don’t know.
“I’ll tell you the Jaguars are not moving. Why not? Where are they going to go? They can’t go to Palatka.”
Kouvaris also said the relationship between news providers and viewers has changed because of technology, and that has had a major impact. The combination of cell phone cameras and the Internet has led to what he called “prosumers,” a cross between a producer and a consumer. Add to that the latest trends in television programming and the lines become blurry.
He gave as an example the day Tiger Woods was at TPC Sawgrass for his first news conference following the golfer’s highly publicized late-night vehicle mishap and stint in treatment.
“I got there and I thought ‘what is this?’ There were 19 satellite trucks. That’s more than at Super Bowl. There were two women in bikinis and a guy dressed like Batman. The tabloid aspect of television news has ramped up tremendously,” said Kouvaris.
Kouvaris also said he’s grateful for the opportunity to have stayed in Jacksonville for so many years.
“Sometimes I think we don’t grasp what we have here. In other cities, you can’t start a business and be accepted and become part of the community like you can in Jacksonville. I live here on purpose. All of us do. We stay here because of the people and the business community,” said Kouvaris.
The next meeting of the Downtown Council is May 21 when architect and Downtown advocate Jack Diamond will be the guest speaker. The meeting begins at 7:30 a.m. at Currents Riverview Bistro at the Aetna Building on the Southbank. Non-members are welcome. Visit www.downtowncouncil.org for more information.
Ch. 4 Sports Director Sam Kouvaris was guest speaker at the Downtown Council’s meeting Friday.
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