Longtime viewers of WYMT may be familiar with Crawford from his stint at WYMT in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and sports enthusiasts may also know Crawford as co-host of ESPN2’s “First Take.”
Crawford is the latest in a long line of personalities from WYMT’s past who have made guest appearances on the newscast as a celebration of the station’s 25 years on the air as WYMT. The old station was called WKYH and sold to Bluegrass Broadcasting in 1985 before becoming WYMT, which stands for “We’re Your Mountain Television.”
WYMT broadcast a 25th anniversary special last week, complete with a 6 o’ clock newscast anchored by the station’s original anchor, Steve Crabtree.
Crawford appeared two days later, and sat down with the Herald prior to his evening anchoring duties, saying he was “excited” to be back in Hazard and at the WYMT studio.
“I love coming back,” he said. “It’s a huge rush for me. I’m probably more excited to be back than anybody is to have me back.”
Crawford’s last broadcast with WYMT was in July of 1991, nearly 20 years ago. But it’s a testament to the notoriety of the station that even after all these years he’s still remembered.
“It’s very humbling, because, you know, I was here for three and a half years, and I’ve been gone for nearly two decades,” he said. “There have been countless people sit in that chair capably since I’ve left, and to think that during my short time here I made enough of an impression that I would be remembered by anybody that long after I’d left, it’s very humbling. It really is.”
Despite now appearing before a national audience on ESPN, Crawford said he has a fond memory of WYMT, the station that gave him his start in broadcasting as a young, green sports reporter, and he is still an advocate for the station.
“I love the fact that I started my career here,” he said, noting that he helped two of the station’s current sports team find WYMT as a starting point in their own career. “I think anybody would be very fortunate to start at a place like this because it gives you the opportunity to do everything. You get to be the photographer, the editor, the writer, the reporter, the producer, the anchor, all rolled into one.”
And it’s that variety of job responsibility that Crawford said helped prepare him for a career in broadcasting that has since served him well.
“This was a great place to start, and I was very fortunate to start here, and I had people who were here at the time that believed in me enough, fresh out of college with no experience, but a big ambitious dreamer, and they gave me the opportunity to learn really how to do television,” he said.
On October 23, 1987 Crawford said he interviewed for an open news position at WYMT, and was asked during the interview if he “knew how to do news.”
He answered yes, even though he admits now what he didn’t at the time. He wanted to be a sports reporter, and was eventually given that opportunity by station manager Wayne Martin, something he said he was fortunate to have received.
“I was very blessed with somebody who believed in me and saw potential in me and elevated me to a position that I was nowhere near being ready for, and he was very patient while I cooked,” he remembered. “It took me a long time before I felt confident, before I really knew what I was doing.”
But because Martin believed in Crawford, he said, he was able to take on all of those roles as reporter, writer and producer and learned the craft of broadcasting. Looking back on those old broadcasts where he described himself as having a “deer in the headlight” looks and a much more youthful appearance, Crawford said his inexperience showed, but it was a good experience and one that put him on his current track.
“That belief that he (Wayne Martin) had in me reinforced in myself the confidence to go out there every single day, even though I just didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.
And for those young up and comers just entering the world of broadcast television just as he was back in 1987, Crawford says he has one bit of advice.
“Be willing to work very hard,” he said. “What you lack in ability you can make up for in work ethic.”
Since Crawford’s departure from WYMT in 1991, he worked at different stations in Tampa, Fla. and Columbus, Ohio before making his way to ESPN.