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Alumni Profile: Jerry Miller

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Jerry Miller Broadcast Journalism, 1978 Voice of Idaho State Bengals for 39 years

Why did you choose to study communications?

Radio was such a big part of my life when I was young. When I was about 8 years old I would lie in bed at night at our East Idaho farm with my 9-volt transistor radio and listen to Vin Scully announce Los Angeles Dodgers baseball on KFI out of L-A. Later, as a young teenager I added Lakers basketball on KNX from L-A featuring Chick Hearn and Hot Rod Hundley, and of course hardly ever did homework at night without a game on or listening to great music with Scott Walker on KOMA from Oklahoma City. In high school I cultivated my love for reading and writing and determined then I wanted to go into broadcasting.

Which current industry trends excite you?

I really love the fact that almost anyone with a smart phone can chronicle their life as it happens, verbally, visually and through the written word.

What is a rewarding experience that you’ve had as a result of your study of communications?

The most rewarding experience took years to develop. It began when I was a teenager on our small farm in east Idaho. At night while doing homework in my bedroom I always had my radio on. During the winter months I often listened to broadcasts of the Los Angeles Lakers, with announcers Chick Hearn and “Hot Rod” Hundley. Back then all I could do was dream of being an NBA announcer. Years later after I graduated from BYU and landed a job at KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, the owner of the New Orleans Jazz of the NBA announced he was moving his team to Utah. After making the move, the team chose to partner with KSL to broadcast its games. How surprised I was to learn the Jazz announcer was “Hot Rod” Hundley, whom I had followed as a young Laker fan. I was thrilled to then be assigned to be the producer of two daily, afternoon sportscasts Hundley would do on KSL. He and I developed a strong friendship, and he used to call me “Walter Musburger” (for Walter Cronkite and Brent Musburger) because my work at KSL included both news and sports assignments. I was also then assigned to be part of the pregame, halftime and postgame features of Jazz home-game broadcasts, sitting courtside right next to Rod. I was in Seventh Heaven! But then it got even better. One day my boss called me into his office and told me they had just learned that Hundley was also employed by CBS Sports as part of its Sunday NBA Game of the Week television broadcasts, and they were looking for a replacement to do Jazz games in Rod’s absence. He asked me if I would like to audition for the job and I almost fainted on the spot. The boss told me to take a cassette tape recorder to the next game and do a broadcast on tape, and that a team official would get the tape from me after the game and they would let me know in a few days if I was the guy. So I went to the game and announced it on tape. Afterwards, the Jazz Assistant GM came and asked if I had the tape. I handed it to him and figured I’d discover my fate in a few days. Instead, he then asked me to put the tape into the tape player so he could hear my work, at that very moment, right in front of me. After I resumed breathing, I put the tape in and hit the “play” button. After about two minutes of him listening and me not breathing again, he reached down and stopped the tape, looked at me and said, “Sounds good to me. You’re the guy.” I don’t remember him walking away or when I started to breathe again, but I could hardly believe what had just happened. It wasn’t long after that my adventures began, starting with a home game against the Philadelphia 76’ers. I broadcast Jazz games from Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City, Houston and New York City in Madison Square Garden, but the most remarkable of all came the weekend I flew into Los Angeles to announce a game between the Jazz and Lakers. I walked up about ten rows into the L-A Forum seats to the booth I would sit in. I met Laker announcer Chick Hearn, whom I’d listened to all those years ago. When the game was over, as I was walking out of the almost-empty Forum, I turned around and looked back where I’d been, sitting in Hot Rod’s chair, right below Chick Hearn, and I realized that dream from years earlier had just come true. I’ve had countless highlights in my career, but I doubt any will top that one. Communications is a constantly changing field.

How have you adapted to these changes within your profession?

It’s been nearly unbelievable to watch the evolution of technology during my career. When I was in college we were shooting TV news stories on 8 mm film, then came video cassettes, and then digital cameras. For audio stories we would do interviews on cassette tapes, then go back to the studio and record the cassette audio onto reel-to-reel tape, then use a razor blade and tape to cut and splice the story together. Today I can record an interview into a recording software, then edit it as needed right on the phone, then send it wherever it needs to go. Years ago when doing high school football, I occasionally would literally climb a pole and splice wires from an old desk telephone together with wires coming down the pole from the telephone lines above in order to broadcast a game. Last year when I didn’t travel with ISU’s teams because of Covid, the school didn’t put our games on the radio because of funding shortages, and streamed them online instead. To broadcast a game I connected my laptop to my broadcast board to use streaming software to go online, while my wife sat in a nearby chair playing commercials during timeouts from a tablet-sized laptop also linked to my broadcast board. I broadcast most of our games that season from my bedroom. I call that adapting to change.