I sent an email on Super Bowl Sunday 35 years in the making.
The recipient: Khambrel Marshall, a meteorologist and the host of a public affairs show on Houston’s NBC station known for his warm on-air presence, volunteerism and trademark bow tie. I wanted to be him when I grew up.
“Dear Khambrel,” I wrote. “I am sending this email to you in 2023 for something you did perhaps without even remembering it now but which had a profound effect on my life and the trajectory I've been on ever since.”
I shared in my note how we’d last seen each other in the late 1980s when he worked in South Florida as a local TV sportscaster and the host of The Jimmy Johnson Show starring the University of Miami head football coach.
My brand new step-father worked in advertising specialities selling logo-branded tchotchkes like t-shirts, coasters and keychains. His clients included the ABC affiliate where Marshall worked. Eager to impress me and well aware of my budding love for journalism, Rick brought me along on a business call and finagled a tour of the TV studio where Marshall answered all my questions about what it was like to work in broadcast news.
In my email, I updated Marshall on my professional journalism career and told him he’s on my mind whenever someone getting their start asks questions about my career.
“Wow!” he replied during the SuperBowl. “Great to hear from you and to know you are thriving in a career that you love. I've loved most of my 47 years in the business as well but it has certainly been challenging along the way!”
A few days later, once ‘love, journalism’ had launched, I invited him to join me as my first guest on my brand new podcast, “The love, journalism Show.”
It was so cool to reconnect.
Marshall opened by sharing his journalism origin story of how he got into broadcasting because he liked the notion of shining a light on society’s problems.
“My mother was a sociologist and I'm a mama's boy,” he said.
We discussed how he came to learn when he got the sportscasting job in 1985 that the Miami Herald had just published a story with the headline below when his race hadn’t even been discussed once during his interviews with Channel 10.
“I was like, ‘Wow, so this is where we are,” he recalled. “It's 1985 and I thought my goodness, this is not something I expected in 1985.”
He talked about being raised by a family of educators who worked at a segregated school in Arkansas City, Arkansas, that was named for his grandfather, a principal and teacher for 9th through 12th graders. He shared how he had overcome the trauma of a cross being burned on his front yard when he was eight years old, and why he spoke up during the George Floyd protests in 2020 about a case of racial injustice that happened after the Civil War in his community of Sugar Land, Texas.
There’s lots more in our conversation, including Marshall’s story of how Hurricane Andrew in 1992 propelled him from sports into news and why later after moving to Houston he moved into management and then meteorology. He shared his own adversity stories about how he handled not getting different contracts renewed, his reasons for why objective journalism is so important for journalists just getting started in the business and why his own pursuit of perfection makes it so challenging to watch his own newscasts.
Marshall recounted a number of stellar sports stories too, including his favorite exchanges with Arthur Ashe, Ernie Banks and Muhammad Ali. I geeked out when Marshall described hanging out with Don Shula in the role of “Godfather” and dropping a Dan Marino pass during a charity outing. Those are available in a separate bonus edition podcast of “The love, journalism Show” you can find right here.
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