Just a person willing to help out some fellow reporters

In Selmer, Tennessee while covering the Reverand Winkler murder, I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen for a few years. The guy’s name is Doug Viar and he was running a sat truck for NBC and some of its affiliates. I last saw Doug after the deadly tornadoes that tore into part of Jackson, TN which is now his home town. As I told some of the folks standing in his sat truck last Friday, I was never so grateful to one person than Doug Viar because he let me spend the night with him. No not that way. Here’s the story.
I first met Doug while I was working at WBBJ in Jackson. He did some production work in his then hometown of Dyersburg and did some freelance news work for stations as they called for him. He did the one-man band thing back before the term VJ was a gleam in some consultant’s eye. He worked primarily for WREG in Memphis. Doug would travel to WBBJ to use their production equipment on occasion for projects that he worked on for various companies in West Tennessee.
A couple of years later I moved to southeast Missouri to work for KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau.
I worked out of Poplar Bluff for about nine months in 1983. Robert Laney was the shooter I worked with in the PB Bureau. One week he and I were sent to Little Rock to cover a federal trial that lasted most of the week. By Friday, Laney and I were exhausted and quite happy to be driving back to PB for some rest. We had been back for about two hours or so when we got a call that a really bad person had been cornered by law enforcement officials in NE Arkansas not far from Walnut Ridge. Some background on this guy. His name was Gordon Kahl if I remember correctly he was with an organization called Posse Comitatus. They are described as an intermittently active, loosely organized group “Christian activists loosely dedicated to survivalism, vigilantism and anti-government agititation.”
Anyway, Kahl was accused of gunning down two federal marshals in North Dakota who were apparently trying to arrest him for an earlier parole violation for non-payment of taxes. As you might imagine. he helped put Posse Comitatus in the forefront of national attention.
Kahl disappeared from view for a long while until he surfaced in Northeast Arkansas. Law enforcement surrounded him in a concrete bunker built into the side of a hill in the middele of nowhere. The local sheriff went to the door to serve an arrest warrant and Kahl shot him, with the bullet going into the arm hole of the sheriff’s bulletproof vest, killing him. Law enforcement opened up. When the media was allowed in probably about six hours or so later, it truly looked like what I would imagine a battle field must look like. Spent cartridge casings were everywhere, the bunker was covered with pock-marks from bullets, ammunition inside was still exploding from the fires set off by teargas and Gordon Kahl was quite dead and would become a martyr for his cause.
Anyway, back to my story. Laney and I had left in such a hurry from PB, we hadn’t taken any money or supplies, thinking we would be back home not long after midnight. Neither one of us had a credit card and the TV station hadn’t issued us a corporate card. (They preferred to give out cash advances instead and we didn’t have any cash to speak of.) On top of all of this, we needed a place to charge our almost depleted camera, recorder and light batteries which were almost drained from the Little Rock trip. We couldn’t go back home because a news conference was expected to be called early in the morning. We figured we were going to have to sleep in that tiny Chevy Citation we drove.
Enter Doug Viar. Because he lived in Dyersburg, TN, he was the go-to guy in that part of the coverage area for WREG. He heard Laney and me discussing our plight and told us that he was getting a motel room and that Laney and I were more than welcome to share his room. His only stipulation was that he got one bed and we could fight over the other. I think we ended up bringing in an extra cot. I’m not sure what I was more appreciative of: a room for the night or the fact that Doug bought us breakfast as well the next morning.
It was no big deal for Doug. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy who works hard and will give his employers 100-percent. But he’s not such a hard ass that he won’t help someone who needs it and that night in Arkansas, Laney and I needed it.
I shared this story with Doug and some of the other folks standing in the sat truck. The funny thing was, Doug remember the incident but not the fact that he had helped us out. To him, it was no big deal. That’s just the way he is. I’m still waiting to return the favor somehow some way.

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6 Comments on “Just a person willing to help out some fellow reporters”

  1. Joan Carr Says:

    Great story, Joe! I’ve heard about the Posse Comitatus guy, but I had no idea you covered the story. Give us some more reminiscences like this. I love to hear stories about the good old days of TV news!

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    I don’t know whether that qualifies as “the good old days of television news” but I’m flattered someone would show an interest.
    The reason I posted on this was that I mentioned in a previous post that I had run into Doug Viar in Selmer and former WREG producer Joe G. who calls Arizona home wanted to hear more about Doug.

  3. Tommy Stafford Says:

    Hey Joe,

    A voice from the past who worked with you!

    Ditto what you said about Doug! As you know I transitioned into Doug’s position when he left WREG. He was a great teacher and taught me the same character of helping others regardless of station affiliation. Those were the good old days for sure. Reporters of today could learn a lot from a guy like Doug. I miss the days of flying those tapes all over the mid-south to make slot, but don’t miss the cut throat style of many in the business now.

    Great blog!

    The best to you!

    Tommy Stafford
    Afton, VA

  4. newsboyarizona Says:

    Yes, thanks for that one. I always liked working with Doug Viar.

  5. Joan Carr Says:

    Tommy Stafford! Another blast from the past! I hope he’s doing well in whatever he’s doing in Virginia.

  6. Jack Parnell Says:


    Everything, and more you said about Doug is true. I’ve known him since he was a disk jockey in Dyersburg…many years ago. He and
    I have been friends for probably 35 or 40 years now. Often when he comes down here (Memphis), he’ll give me a call and we’ll “do lunch”, or if Margaret’s with him, he, Margaret, Shirley and I will sneak off to a dinner together. Since I’m a cheaplance voice talent (Can’t afford to FREElance!)
    he’s even hired me on occasion.

    Jack Parnell

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