Indiana Broadcast History Archive

Kevin Rader

Kevin Rader, with nearly five decades of journalism experience, completed his impressive career with 30 years dedicated to WTHR in Indianapolis. Just before his retirement in 2020, he was awarded Indiana’s prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash. He was inducted into the Great Lakes Emmys “Silver Circle,” which is one of the highest honors given by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). The Silver Circle recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25 years or more. The National Press Photographers Association also nominated Rader for Reporter of the Year in 2015. Rader won seven regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and a national Murrow Award for writing. 

Growing Up

Kevin Rader was born on June 2, 1957, and raised in Lexington, Nebraska. When Rader was just 15 years old, and a sophomore in high school, a job opening for a weekend disc jockey was offered at a local radio station. Working at the radio station opened a whole new world for Rader. Having no previous family interested in the industry, Rader was not familiar with the world of journalism. After being introduced to broadcasting, he was beginning to enjoy his time at the local radio station. Rader trusted his intuition and went for it. 

In his final year of high school, Rader switched from being a disc jockey to doing play-by-play sports broadcasts. On Friday nights, he would record his play-by-play sessions and broadcast them on KAMI radio station every Saturday morning where he worked until the end of his senior year.  

Clips in this video

Back in Kevin Rader’s childhood home, there was a hidden spot beneath the steps leading down into the basement—a secret cubby. That was Rader’s little hideaway. Oftentimes, he would sneak into the secret cubby, turn on the radio, and lose himself in the world of sportscasting, especially for Nebraska football. 

When Rader was a high school senior, he lived next door to a high school football coach. Rader would grab his cassette recorder and conduct a pregame interview with the coach at his kitchen table. That coach just so happened to be Barry Alvarez who later coached at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.  

Alvarez became more than just a high school football coach to Rader; he became a mentor. One piece of advice Alvarez gave to Rader when conducting interviews was to never ask “yes” or “no” questions. That little piece of advice shaped Rader’s approach to reporting throughout his nearly 50-year career in the journalism profession.  

Clips in this video

College

Going into college, Rader already had three years of journalism experience doing sports play-by-play in high school. He was hired at KGFW Radio covering Kearney State College, now called the University of Nebraska Kearney. He worked there for about five years providing play-by-play commentary for both Kearney State football and basketball. 

Rader then decided that since he was already working in the journalism business, he wanted to pursue his other love, history. He was torn because he did not want his love for sports and play-by-play to outweigh his love for history. Rader received his B.S. in History with minors in Social Science and Broadcasting. He was named Distinguished Alumni from UNK in 2008. 

Clips in this video

After finding his niche and need to be a storyteller, Rader was still set on sports. However, Rader was presented with an opportunity to report his first news story when he was sent to cover a tornado that struck Grand Island, Nebraska. This was his first opportunity to ever get into the news. His story went on to receive a statewide award. Rader knew how to connect with people, and he wanted to tell their stories, so he decided to take the path to cover the news. 

Before WTHR

After graduating from the University of Nebraska Kearney, Rader went to Nebraska Television Network (NTV) Channel 13 in Kearney where at the time, he was anchoring sports. Rader knew he was destined for television. He knew storytelling was what he had to do. Majoring in history gave him the confidence to step away from sports because of his love for history and people. 

Rader then spent some time in Cheyenne, Wyoming (1985-1986) on television where he switched to anchoring the news at KYCU (now KGWN). He was there for about one year when a college friend of his networked him into a job in Green Bay, Wisconsin (1986-1990) working at WLUK for five years. 

Moving to Indianapolis

In 1990, Rader was hired by WTHR and joined Channel 13 Eyewitness News where he stayed for 30 years. He felt he was given the opportunity to succeed, and he knew that was where he was supposed to be.  

Rader covered presential election, presidential debates, the Kosovo Refugee Camps in Macedonia during the Bosnian conflict, 9/11 in New York, the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and so much more.  

Throughout his career, he has only missed one national political convention from 1988 to 2000. He has interviewed five Indiana Governors and five U.S. Presidents, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. 

Rader’s career took off when he joined WTHR. It was during this time when he also made the transition to the anchor desk. Realizing that writing and reporting were his true calling, he thrived in his new role. 

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Although Rader was covering big stories, there is one he will never forget. “The Gift” was a story told about a boy who struggled with addiction and died from a drug overdose. His parents had found a video recording of him almost six years after his passing. Rader asked to be there while the parents watched the video for the first time. Steve Rhodes, a photographer, helped Rader with this story. “The Gift” won “Best Sports Story in America” in 2014 which also earned a National Edward R. Murrow. 

"The Gift"

Political Conventions

Rader made his first appearance at a national political convention in 1988. It was in New Orleans, and it was the same night Ronald Reagan gave his farewell speech to the Republican party. He wanted to make it to the floor, and he wanted to get as close as he could to experience Regan’s farewell speech. He knew then that he was where he needed to be. At this point in his career, Rader was working in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He knew this was history and he did not want to miss it. Dan Quayle was standing right next to him waiting for George Bush to unveil his vice-presidential nomination. A few months later, Rader is hired at WTHR, and the election is over. Air Force II pulls up and Dan Quayle gets out of the plane. Rader is still new to WTHR and Dan Quayle does not hesitate, and he walks straight toward Rader and his cameraman.  

At this point in his career, political conventions were Rader’s thing. He got to hear incredible speeches and meet important people. This was the moment that he knew he made the right decision to major in history back in college. 

"Go Get the Story"

After having interviewed President Donald Trump, people asked how a local reporter was getting such big interviews. It was a competitive field and environment, and he stands by the saying, “You want the story, you go get it.” 

Clips in this video

Kevin Rader's Writing Process

His writing is what kept him afloat in this business. It is what made him excel and stand out. When he sits down to write, he goes into a world where lives to write a story. He logs everything that can help him build and write a story. Every detail is important, and he lives alongside the story to help tell it to its fullest potential. Rader puts himself in other’s shoes to understand what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what are they doing. It is their story, and he is just telling it. If he does not feel something, he knows he messed up. When you report on a story, go into their world, and tell it from their perspective. If you do that, you cannot go wrong. He did not care if the audience felt emotional, angry, or happy; he wanted people to feel it. It is like he is sitting down and writing to a family member about what he just witnessed. His main priority was making sure that his stories were gifts to people and to make it mean something to them. 

Clips in this video

Giving Back to the Indiana Community After Retirement

After retiring with almost 50 years of journalism experience, Rader wanted to give back. Rader is a small-town person, who is now living in Linton, Indiana. He believes in the power of doing. Rader and his wife, Heather, help at a school in Linton, Indiana, that gives kids the same journalistic opportunity he had growing up. He and his wife have been very busy keeping up with the play-by-play for the sports teams at Linton. They started a streaming service to give students the opportunity to delve into the world of broadcasting. When they first made a bid to the school, Rader expressed that this is more than sports. He wanted to give the kids an opportunity to report on other things going on in the school to further distribute his knowledge.  

He is now working on a blog, which is something he has always wanted to do. In short, the blog is about him growing up, his childhood, and the adversity he fought through in those years. Rader’s main goal is to be able to reach someone who can connect with his story and make them believe in themselves, the way he believed in himself.  

_________________________________________________________________________________________

By Maddie Slepski,  

Edited by Jack Lindner 

For more information on the life and career of Kevin Rader, watch his entire oral history interview.  

Last Edit: March 30th, 2024 

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