Steve Savard grew up in Missouri, went to college in the state and has worked in it for more than the last quarter century. And he will continue to do so in the next chapter of his career.
Savard, who returned to his hometown of St. Louis in 1994 when he was hired as a sportscaster at (KMOV) Channel 4 and later became its sports director then a lead news anchor, is headed to Springfield, Mo. He will co-anchor the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. weeknight newscasts on KOLR, the local CBS affiliate, beginning Monday.
This comes after he was one of more than 100 people laid off nationally, 16 in St. Louis, last September by KMOV parent company Meredith Corporation. The moves were attributed to the coronavirus-fueled financial downturn.
Savard, 57, was not ready to retire and said he has found the right situation.
“News director Lissa Hamblen and general manager Mike Spruill and I hit it off from the start,” Savard said Friday. “I couldn’t ask for a better ideological or personal fit. I’m joining a news operation that emphasizes daily attention to detail and accountability, and chooses the fundamental over the sensational.”
Hamblen is happy to have hired Savard.
“Ethics drives every decision we make when it comes to choices of coverage, and it was an immediate bond between Steve and myself,” she said in a statement. “Getting details of a story right before we worry about being first is a value we share.”
Savard and his wife will be moving from the nation’s 23rd largest market to No. 73, but the proximity of Springfield to St. Louis — about a three-hour drive southwest on Interstate 44 — is appealing.
“I felt comfortable and at home from the moment I walked in for my interview until the minute I left,” Savard said. “The fact that it is 200 miles, not 2,000 miles, from St. Louis is a major plus. That said, I’m going to fully immerse myself in the Springfield community. I owe that to the station, the company and my KOLR 10 colleagues.
“I wasn’t going to leave my hometown for just any job. I was in talks with two other stations along the way but this opportunity made the most sense by far. Lissa Hamblen called me within 12 hours of me sending my reel and resume. And, there hasn’t been a hiccup or bump in the road since.”
He said there were no comparable opportunities locally.
“I never pursued another TV job in St. Louis,” Savard said. “I did have one brief conversation with a news director and while I appreciated the call, we both knew there really wasn’t anything available that I had interest in.”
Not many people in their mid-50s are moving to a different city to take a new job, but Savard said this could be invigorating.
“I’m energized by the challenge of starting over in a new market and establishing credibility and trust with a new audience,” he said. “I know Springfield fairly well. I was recruited to play football at Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State). I have friends who live in the area.”
Savard was the Rams’ radio play-by-play announcer for their last 16 seasons in St. Louis, and those broadcasts were carried in Springfield and surrounding towns. So there is some familiarity with him there. And football connects him with Spruill, the general manager at KOLR.
“We literally butted heads for two seasons,” Savard said. “He played guard for Missouri Western and I played middle linebacker for Northwest Missouri State. He opened our initial meeting on Zoom with a picture of the two of us about six feet apart in a game. It feels like I’ve known Mike for years. In a way I have, although neither of us knew it.”
Savard dived into sports-talk radio between TV jobs, hosting a program on KFNS (590 AM) for about 3½ months. When he stepped down from that show a few weeks ago, station general manager John Hadley said he wanted Savard to make appearances on the air after he began his new job.
“I would be open to contributing in a small capacity at a point when it makes sense,” Savard said Friday. “But my priority now is to get settled in to my new role. I owe it to Mike Spruill and KOLR 10 to be focused on the job I was hired to do. And Mike would have to sign off on anything.”
His stay at KFNS was brief, but it was the first time he had hosted a daily radio show. It was an educational experience.
“I did enjoy my foray into daily talk radio despite the fact that I was working without a producer,” Savard said. “To his credit, John Hadley helped by booking most of my guests. And working with (co-host) Jim Heuer every day was a blessing. The two hours I spent at the mic every day were fun. But, the challenge of filling two hours of content kept me on my toes. I really did enjoy the research aspect of preparing for each show, the same way I enjoyed the research component of prepping for Rams games.”
He said he might be open to a full-time radio role at some point late in his career.
“Again, never say never,” Savard said. “I wouldn’t rule it out if it made sense when my TV days are over. Do you think they’ll still have producers then? LOL. (Management) did all they could to make me comfortable at 590 The Fan. I’m glad I took the job. I honestly didn’t know if it was going to last three months or three years. Turns out it was the former.”
Now he is eager to embark on his new job, and does not envision it leading him back to St. Louis television.
“I’ve been around long enough to know you never say never but I’m comfortable saying I’ve likely worked my last shift in TV news in St. Louis,” he said. “I’m thankful for the almost 27-year run I had. But, it’s time to move on. I’m approaching this move to KOLR 10 as if it will be my last stop in television news.”