Ron Smith has been a familiar figure in Reno for many years as a broadcaster at three local television stations and as an economic development figure at the Reno Chamber of Commerce. He will retire shortly from KNPB, the public broadcasting affiliate.
What did you do before you went to work at Channel 5?
It’s a long history—I can’t hold a job, Dennis, is the problem. Immediately preceding, I worked for the Washoe Association for Retarded Citizens.
You were in television before, though, right?
Yes, I came to town in 1960 to work at Channel 8, which of course was the only station in town … And I was with Channel 4 when it went on the air in 1962.
When did you join KNPB?
In 1991, March of ‘91, so 15 years ago.
What do you do there?
Raise money and public awareness.
How do you do that?
Various disciplines of membership, individuals and families who invest in Channel 5 on an annual basis from as low as $20 to well over a thousand dollars. Those over a thousand we call “Silver Circle” members, and they’re considered major donors. We have about 8,000 overall members in Channel 5, and it generates almost a million dollars a year. We have what’s called underwriting, which allows corporations and foundations and other funders to have short messages on our air—something like commercials but with some restrictions. It’s more of a marketing statement than it is an actual advertisement, and that’s a major source of funding.
What are you going to do when you retire?
Well, the business plan is to have more leisure, play more golf, travel a bit more with [wife] Pat, and do those things you do when you’re retired. I’ll also be hanging out my consultant’s shingle. We have a city licensed business called Smith Consultancy, and one of my first chores will be working with one of the vendors of Channel 5.
When you came here, did you plan to stay?
No. No, I was raised in San Francisco, got my degrees there from San Francisco State, spent a brief time in Bakersfield working in radio, and came here looking for work and found it at Channel 8. That was owned by Don Reynolds at that time. He also owned KOLO Radio at that time, the AM, and I was weekdays working at TV and Saturdays and Sundays working in radio. That’s how you kind of make ends meet. Moved to Reno to work for $350 a month.
How long did you plan to stay?
That was open ended. The idea was to get experience so that I’d be of some value to a major market. Primarily, I wanted to go back to San Francisco but was open to Los Angeles. And in 1967, went to Los Angeles and had a couple of job offers, one that was firm, and decided I didn’t want to live there and climbed back on the airplane and came home. And just on happenstance, there was an opening at the chamber of commerce. Changed careers and worked for 10 years at the chamber of commerce, ultimately as the director of the visitors and convention bureau.
Is it safe to say you’ve decided to stay?
Decided to stay. That was a firm decision.