Name: Brian Thouvenot
Job: News Director, KMOV-TV Channel 4 in St. Louis
Outlook: "You have to find and strike a balance, and I'll always work hard to find the balance."
Fairview Heights resident Brian Thouvenot was named the news director at KMOV-TV Channel 4 in St. Louis earlier this month. The O'Fallon native joined the station in May 2008 and has also served as executive producer, assistant news director and acting news director at the CBS affiliate. He recently invited business writer Will Buss to the television newsroom in downtown St. Louis to talk shop and about his metro-east roots:
Q: What does it mean to you to work within the community where you grew up?
A: "For me, growing up watching Channel 4 with my family, mostly during dinner hours and some rare Friday nights at 10 o'clock, I remember when they said 'It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your kids are?' So I have fond memories of those moments, mostly because of family but also catching up on what's going on in the St. Louis area. In those days, television was a lot different than it is now. I think that's something we're trying to recapture right now. Not so much focus on running down fires and crimes, but doing stories that are more impactful on the community. Our brand is 'Watching Out For You.' We're an advocate for viewers and holding people accountable, what journalism is supposed to be about. We're also doing more community events and things of that nature now, and that's mostly under the direction of our new general manager, Mark Pimentel."
Q: What lead you into broadcast journalism?
A: "Through public speaking. I did public speaking as a child through the Optimist Club in Belleville. They had a speech contest and I was in that. I had to stand on milk crates to see over the podium. That was something that my mom and dad were very proud of and encouraged me to do because it's not typical that a young person goes and makes speeches. That carried over into high school, and I won many awards for public speaking. That was what lead my interest into this line of work. When I was in college at Illinois State, from '91 to '95, I wanted to be in broadcasting. You don't start your TV experience until your junior year. So by the time I got to junior year, I started getting involved in the TV station and started doing on-air reporting and things of that nature. I was a news director. We had a news director who ran the station who had previous news director experience who kind of said, 'I see you more as a TV producer.' Not necessarily that I was a bad anchor or a bad reporter, but he said that you have all of the things that are necessary to be a producer. He said you kind of have to be a Type A personality, be able to make quick decisions, handle may things going on at one time, be very organized. So he offered me the 5 o'clock producing position at our college TV station, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, because she was also in television in college. I took the challenge and I just kind of found the passion for it. Being on the producing side, you get a taste of all the things that you need to eventually ascend to the position where am I now."
Q: Where else have you worked?
A: "After I graduated, I did an internship at KY 3 in Springfield, Mo. How I ended up there was my ability to do actual work as an intern and I also had a brother who was there, so I had free room and board and that was very helpful. A month later, I was hired to do the 6 a.m. news and the overnight news. It was writing, editing, video and handling all of the calls coming into the newsroom. I was doing that for about six months and then I got moved to the 10 p.m. news and I did that for just under a year. Then I had an opportunity to work at KDNL, which is the ABC station here in town. I started there as a writer but quickly was promoted to weekend producer and then eventually to the 5 and 10 o'clock producer. I was kind of feeling the end of that in 2001, and you just kind of get the sense that you want to move on, and I kind of needed to make the break. Once you know where you're going, you kind of have to take your path to how you're going to get to where you want to go. I started looking around the country for positions in management and there was a position in Lancaster, Pa. I had never heard of it and wouldn't have been able to point to it on a map. It was an executive producer job at a very well-respected TV station there, WGAL, owned by the Hearst Corp."
Q: How long were you there?
A: "I was there from 2001 to May 2008. It was such a great experience, a great experience for me. The company was really good to work for and my wife and I actually found our path to adoption out in Pennsylvania. We adopted our daughter from China in May 2007, on Mother's Day. It was a very exciting day and an exciting time in our lives."
Q: What brought you back to the St. Louis area?
A: "It was the job, partly, but a lot for family. Growing up in the O'Fallon-Belleville area, I knew all of my aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of my family, my mom's side and my dad's side. So it was something that I wanted to share with my daughter and it just so happened that there was an executive producer job for the 10 p.m. news here that was open in May 2008, and I was hired."
Q: How long has your family been living in the metro-east?
A: "My great grandfather Joseph and great grandmother Erma Thouvenot built the house in the late 1800s on Thouvenot Lane. It wasn't Thouvenot Lane back then. I forget exactly when it was named Thouvenot Lane, but a postmaster in O'Fallon at the time was naming the roads. So when they wanted to name that road, he said that Joseph Thouvenot lives out there, so let's name it Thouvenot Lane. And that's kind of how it became that. He was a farmer who farmed the ground that we still live on out there today. He farmed everything from tomatoes to potatoes. He did it by mule and plow, at first, and then upgraded at some point to an Oliver 60 tractor that my brother still has.'
Q: Does your family still farm the land?
A: "My family doesn't farm it, we share crop it. My father was a long-time dentist in Belleville."
Q: Where do you live?
A: "We live in Fairview Heights. We still have property on Thouvenot Lane with my grandfather's house. My grandfather built a little home right in front of the main farm land and we still own that and rent it out."
Q: Today, the Thouvenot Lane is a portion of longer and newer roadway, Frank Scott Parkway. Why wasn't the entire road renamed?
A: "Here's the story on that. When I was a producer at Channel 30, I got a call from my dad one day. My dad was a very proud man. He was very proud of the fact that he lived in his family farm house, had a beautiful property and was proud to be a dentist in his hometown. He was also very proud to have a road named after his family. My dad would always come home for lunch with my mom, who was his chairside assistant at work. When they came home for lunch one day, the road name had been changed from Thouvenot Lane to MidAmerica Airport Drive. So there was a time when it was called MidAmerica Airport Drive. So my dad called me and he was really hot, and he said, 'You've got to do something about this. This is unacceptable.' And I said, 'Well, Dad, I can't really do news that affects me, but we'll find a way and see if we maybe we can get the News-Democrat to do a story. It ended up that the News-Democrat did a story about the changing of the road name from Thouvenot Lane and Drake Road to MidAmerica Airport Drive. So we fought and got it changed back."
Q: Why was the roadway initially renamed?
A: "I remember it was around the time of the base realignment and they wanted to rename it Frank Scott Parkway because that is the namesake of the base and anything we can do to maintain it is a good thing. I actually went to one of those road commissioner meetings and I said 'If that's your best shot to keep the air base in town, I hope you have a Plan B.' What ended up happening is we kind of reached a gentlemen's agreement between the county and my father. And that is as long as there is a Thouvenot living out there in that stretch between Old Collinsville Road and just past the kennels across Hartman Lane, it will be named Thouvenot Lane. It's probably going to be that way for a while because my mom lives in the farm house and my sister-in-law and her son live just behind my mom's place. So there's a lot of Thouvenots still out there. And who knows? Maybe my wife, daughter and I may move out there some day. So it is a great source of pride that there's a road named after you."
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your new job?
A: "That it's mine to kind of lead the direction and everyone has their sense of wanting to put their mark on the product. I think we have a very successful brand here with 'Watching Out For You'. It's a very aggressive brand, but I also think we need to work some elements of community in there to show we're a good community partner and not everything is always so doom and gloom because that can get old after a while, I think. But it's a fine line. People say they want good news, but then when you do good news, they don't watch. So you have to find and strike a balance, and I'll always work hard to find the balance."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.