Veteran reporter-anchor-mentor Paul Udell calls it quits at KITV
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, Paul Udell has left the building. Twenty-two years after joining KITV as news director -- and serving as an anchor, reporter and mentor -- the seasoned broadcast journalist will not return to the station once his vacation is pau.
"I'm not retiring," he said. "I'm just out of work -- for the first time in 48 or 49 years," he laughed.
He wasn't fired. "I have never been fired," and has always left a station of his own accord, he said.
Wow. In that business? Amazing.
"People all think I'm mad at somebody," but he's not, he said.
Udell did want to get out of daily stories to focus on doing "the big stories ... more significant, longer stuff, and to take more time to do it, but it's not in the cards."
He hasn't spoken with other stations or potential employers. "I just kind of have to step back and reassess things, I think."
"I can tell you one thing. I won't take up golf."
On a roll, he added: "I won't hang around the mall at 7 a.m. I have to walk the dog at 6 a.m. every morning. That's my future."
He loves the news business and loves the television medium, but he started in print and radio. After earning his journalism degree at Notre Dame, Udell worked as a police beat reporter at the Augusta Chronicle in Georgia and wrote for Newsweek magazine along the way.
"His first broadcast gig was at KNX radio, a CBS station in Los Angeles in 1958," said Tod Pritchard, news director at KITV.
Reading further from Udell's resume, Pritchard rattled off a host of call letters, many of them from big-time, network owned-and-operated stations where getting hired is the stuff of which broadcast career dreams are made.
He was at KNXT-TV, a CBS station in Los Angeles now known as KCBS; he was an anchor and reporter at WNBC-TV in New York City; he served as an NBC correspondent in Vietnam; returned to anchoring and reporting at WABC-TV in New York City; at WBBM-TV in Chicago; at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis; WTTV-TV in Washington, DC; KHON-TV in Honolulu; WLS-TV in Chicago; and KRON-TV in San Francisco, from whence he returned to Hawaii to work at KITV.
"I was a lousy news director," Udell said. "I think I had five bosses in two and a half years," which didn't help. "It was pretty brutal."
He's been primarily an anchor in the years since 1987, but was reassigned from the morning anchor desk to reporting two years ago, when Mahealani Richardson was promoted from weekend anchor.
"There's one thing I am proud of," he said. "I have never called in sick" his entire career.
He added, "I went eight and a half years on the morning news and never was late."
"I would never do that again, (laughs) I think it cost me 20 years of my life."
Veteran reporter Keoki Kerr, whom Udell hired as an intern, said, "I've always admired his good humor, intelligence, and gentle, kind manner.
"I learned something from him every day."
Kerr called Udell "the best television storyteller in Honolulu. His stories routinely made us laugh and cry. He is just a fantastic reporter and writer. We will miss him greatly!"
Pritchard also praised Udell's storytelling skills and said his departure leaves a void.
"He was a great mentor, a great teacher to a lot of our reporters here, from veteran people to interns walking in the door. He really shared a lot of his experience and knowledge with people," Pritchard said.
As for whether the station will begin the usual nationwide search to try to fill Udell's shoes, Pritchard said, "Honestly I don't know what our plans are right now, but there's no hope of replacing Paul Udell."
"We're all replaceable, but Paul might be the person who breaks that rule," Pritchard said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org