SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Longtime KSLA news anchor and former Public Service Commissioner Don Owen has passed away.
Donald Lynn "Don" Owen, who also served as news director during his 32-year tenure at KSLA, died Sunday morning of complications from pneumonia.
A Beggs, Oklahoma native, Owen began his broadcasting career at a radio station in Ada and stayed with them until he took a job in 1953 with KFDX-TV in Witchita Falls, TX. Not long after that, he was offered an announcer's job with KSLA-TV, Channel 12, joining the station just 15 days after it went on the air in January 1954. He was 24.
Ten years into his tenure at KSLA, Owen told The Shreveport Journal in October 1964 that he knew what he wanted when he got into broadcasting. "I guess I had always been interested in the news. I chose broadcasting as a career at an early age."
When KSLA began broadcasting local news from the basement of the Washington Youree Hotel, where the Hibernia Bank building is now, Don Owen was doing the weather, and Al Bolton did the news. "Then they figured out that Al was good at doing the weather and Don was good at doing the news. So they switched it."
In his time at KSLA, Owen set the standard for local news in the ArkLaTex. "After we went on the air , I did eleven 30-minute programs a week," Owen once recalled in an interview with KSLA. "Open and close, and three live one-minute commercials in each one of them. And there no TelePrompTer, there were no videotapes to give you a second chance,you went on the air and you did it, either well or badly, but it went out."
Don was the first, and for the first three decades, the only news director KSLA had. He set the standard in Shreveport television news, paving the way for many firsts in local news broadcasting. "He was Channel 12," recalls long-time KSLA News Chief Photographer Semmie Buffin. "He was the pioneer. He blazed the trail."
Semmie Buffin was one of those hired by Owen. "I thought a lot of Don," he says. "Don was the one who gave me a chance. Matter of fact, Don Owen was the one that made me Chief Photographer. I'd never been in management before, never had a management position. He told me I could handle it." Buffin is still KSLA News 12's Chief Photographer today, 35 years later.
Owen put Nita Fran Hutcheson on the air as the first female reporter on KSLA News 12, in October 1967. She says he expected nothing less than the best from her. "Every time I would get to the level of the bar that he would put up for me, he'd raise it and do it again."
Owen was also responsible for hiring Roseanne Colletti, who went on to report for WNBC and WCBS, Margaret Pelley, who went on to report for Dateline, as well as Wray Post and Tom Irwin and many others.
"He made me a better broadcaster," says former anchor and reporter Tony Taglavore. "Don kept pushing me, and never settled for just the acceptable."
And so it was that Don Owen blazed a trail in local news, and led a newsroom that dominated the local airwaves and ratings. Most indelibly, he earned and kept the respect of those who worked with and for him, as well as that of the viewing public.
"He was very well-respected and he actually protected that respect that he got from the public," recalls Hutcheson. It meant something to him, to be trusted."
Owen resigned from his position at KSLA News 12 in 1984 to run for and win the District 5 Public Service Commissioner seat. He was re-elected twice more, serving three six-year terms.
Don Owen is preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Dagmar. He is survived by his son Daryl, daughter Donna and four grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private.