Oklahoma broadcasting icon celebrates 40th anniversary

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OKLAHOMA CITY - "I consider what I do a craft, a privilege and a responsibility. You have a responsibility to get it right," said Linda Cavanaugh.

Linda is celebrating 40 years at News 4!

She started her career as a reporter and photographer. She would later make history at KFOR as our first female co-anchor.

At the time, "the newsroom was an all-male bastion, basically. She called me up and said, 'I'd like to come work for you.' And I thought, 'Great.' I'd seen her in the past. I knew what kind of potential she had and what she could do for us," said George Tomek, a former anchor at KFOR.

Linda says she set out to do a simple job, with the opportunity coming to her at the right time.

"When I first started at Channel 4, it was a totally different world. We shot on film with cameras and we'd bring it back to the station to have it processed. We wrote our scripts on typewriters, the old clunky kind. It was a wonderful time as far as I was concerned because it combined everything I loved. Photography, writing, meeting people, travel," she said. "I never had any intention of anchoring or being in front of the camera. As I was growing up, Channel 4 was the only station that my grandparents watched and so when it came time to pick a station, that was the only one I knew about."

"She at Channel 4 and others like her in other markets around the country were really groundbreakers, really pioneers," Tomek said.

Linda has marked many milestones through the years. She was the first non-network journalist allowed into the Soviet Union under the "glasnost" policy. Linda was also the first American journalism permitted inside the infamous Hanoi Hilton, a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam.

"The idea of breaking new ground has always been important to me because I understand that we influence lives," she said.

During the filming of Linda's award-winning series, "Strangers In Their Own Land," she was the first journalist allowed to photograph ancient Native American rituals that were closed to all but tribal members.

"One of the endearing things about Linda is that what you see on the air is truly authentic," said former co-anchor Jane Jayroe. "When women started to be news anchors, first of all, it was OK to be on the early news but to be taken seriously, you needed to be a man. And then for two women to be anchoring a newscast together was extremely rare in America at the time."

Linda's journalistic efforts and personal crusade also helped a group of Oklahomans establish the first hospice in Oklahoma County during the 1980s.

"Our community did not know what hospice was at the time. Her first early assignment on hospice really opened up a tremendous amount of information to the public. Oh, it was a huge impact when Linda brought the concept to television," said Susan Frank, former Oklahoma County Hospice Board Member.

And in the 1980s, Linda worked on an investigative series on Oklahoma restaurants that resulted in inspection records being made available to the public for the first time.

Linda not only juggled her work as a journalist, but also the demands of being a wife and mother. "They are my core," she said of her family.

"There's an emotional intelligence there and I think it comes through in a way she crafts the stories that she does, in the way she interacts with the people she's interviewing. It is just part of her larger gift," said Paul Clark, Linda's son.

"People see her more as a friend than someone who is telling you the news. She is a face that has been in living rooms and family dens for the past 40 plus years," said Linda's daughter, Ann Clark.

"It's not the facade. It's not fake. That's who she is. That's the way she is. She identifies with people," said Will Clark, Linda's husband. "One of the endearing qualities of my wife is that she has an excellent sense of humor. She doesn't allow herself to take things too seriously."

With 40 years under her belt at KFOR, 19 of those years have been spent by co-anchor Kevin Ogle's side at the anchor desk.

"People relate to her because they know she's one of us," Ogle said. "And that's a very important quality to have in a broadcast journalist, wanting to be able to tell a story that you haven't heard before."

And others who worked closely with her say her hard work never went unnoticed.

"Whenever I worked with Linda, I always felt as if I played up. She elevated the playing field. She expected 110% out of the people that she worked with. That was only because she was willing to give 120% on her end," said photojournalist Tony Stizza.

"40 years for anyone in television news is unheard of, especially for a female being able to stick it out all this time just shows how talented she is," said News 4  anchor Joleen Chaney. "I grew up in Oklahoma, of course, watching Linda. What little girl interested in journalism has not looked up to Linda? She paved the way for people like me."

But Linda gives credit to her parents, saying her upbringing is what viewers see on air.

"There's a great reflection of how my parents raised me that you see on the air," she said. "My dad's a great human being and I try to be much like him. His memory is not what it used to be. When you're 95, I can understand that. We don't make memories anymore. We make moments. That's what I'm looking for. Just to make whatever moments I have left with him memorable."

Throughout her career, Linda has earned more than 20 national awards for reporting. In addition, she has been honored with 20 regional Emmy awards.

"I see a people who can be knocked down but are raised up by those around them. And I love this state for that," she said.

And when she was inducted into the Oklahoma Broadcaster's Hall of Fame, she was referred as "Oklahoma's first lady of broadcast journalism."

Last year, Linda accepted a national Edward R. Murrow award for her ongoing reporting on the survivors of the Oklahoma City Bombing.

"I hope when all is said and done, that someone, someplace will be able to say, 'You know, she made a difference. And she loved what she was doing and felt privileged to be able to do it and did it the best she could,'" Linda said.

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