STEHR: Stories I remember the most

John visits Cuba in 2015. (WTHR Photo)
John Stehr

One of my mentors in broadcasting told me something early on that I have never forgotten. He said that it is important to work from a list of priorities and even suggested what those top ten priorities should be. Number one: the audience. Number two: the audience. Numbers three through ten: the audience.

John Stehr reports from the Vatican in 2006. Photo Courtesy: John Whalen

It has been a guiding principle of my career. The newscasts that we put on each day are never about me or my colleagues. They need to focus on the people who chose to watch. I've always tried to find the value in each story for the people on the other end of the signal. All of the amazing technology we have is really for one purpose — to be able to communicate news and information to you. If we give you nothing but empty calories, we could hardly blame you for seeking your news and information elsewhere.

There is one question that people ask me more than any other these days: "What is the most memorable story that you've covered?" That's a harder question to answer than you might think — especially since I'm the kind of person who tends to keep my eyes on the road ahead rather than the rear-view mirror.

That being said: I have a few stories that I can recall with some fondness, such as the opening of Circle Centre Mall, one of the first big events that I was a part of here at channel 13. It's hard to remember now, but downtown Indianapolis used to be very quiet after about 5:00 P.M. The mall transformed it and made it a hub of activity. And, yes, Circle Centre is not today what it once was, but it was a big driver of the major step we've taken from "Indiana-noplace" to the Indianapolis we know today.

Speaking of openings, I also broadcast live from the first days of Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field, and the NCAA.

John Stehr reports from a party in Miami before the Colts played in the 2007 Super Bowl.

Remember the Colts miraculous run to the AFC Championship game in 1996? Coach Ted Marchiabroda told his quarterback Jim Harbaugh to "Let er rip" — and I was there to watch the Colts get to within a Hail Mary of the Super Bowl. I was also there when they did finally cash in at the big game in Miami (where Prince played the halftime show) and when the Super Bowl came to our town in 2012. I was with the Pacers when they went to the NBA finals in 2000.

I also got to go Rhino hunting with the Indianapolis Zoo, and traveled through Russia with Senator Lugar, into Afghanistan and Pakistan with then-congressman Pence, and I reported from the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon in the days after 9-11 and from the funeral for President Reagan.

After the September 11 attacks, John Stehr traveled to D.C. to tell the stories of Hoosiers who were in the Pentagon during the attack.
Several national political conventions and Olympic Game trips, and I even saw the Pope canonize Indiana's first saint at the Vatican in 2006. I was one of the first American reporters to go to communist Cuba in 2015. I covered the burial of one Indiana governor, and the inaugurations of five others. I had a one-on-one interview with the President of the United States in the White House and covered 11 groups of Presidential candidates over the years.

Along the way, I have seen Hoosiers helping Hoosiers after flooding, tornado outbreaks and natural disasters — and have been privileged to bring all of these stories to you.

But, there is one story that may have been a bit under the radar and it happened in 1996 when I went to Washington to document the last days of Representative Andy Jacob, Jr.'s long congressional career. He asked me if I wanted to take the rare opportunity to go with him to the top of the dome on the U.S. Capitol building so he could look out over the city one last time (rare because one can't buy a ticket for this trip — you can only go if you are accompanied by a member of Congress, who has the time and is willing to take you). It takes an hour to get up there — through small passageways, past the old domes, up hundreds of steps. Finally, we reached the top, a small balcony at the feet of the statue "Freedom," looking out to the Washington Monument, the White House, and Lincoln Memorial to the west — and the Supreme Court and Library of Congress to the East. An extraordinary view that we were able to put on the television screens, and in the homes, of Hoosiers the next day.

Along with giving me a front-row seat to important events in the lives of Hoosiers and other Americans, my job has sometimes given me a backstage pass to see things that few people ever get to see. When I say that I have been enormously blessed, I mean it — and doubly blessed to have been able to share those experiences with you.

I'm going to miss that.

- John Stehr

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