Ray Hershel reflects on 50 years of reporting in Western Mass. - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Ray Hershel reflects on 50 years of reporting in Western Mass.

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Ray Hershel's interest in broadcasting began long before he started working at 1300 Liberty Street. 

"When I was in high school, for some reason, I seemed to gravitate toward radio. I listened to a lot of broadcasting, listened to a lot of sporting events and I thought, someday that might be a business I'd like to get in to. Originally, I was thinking of being a sportscaster," Ray told Western Mass News anchor Dave Madsen.

An English teacher and mentor suggested Ray go to Emerson College in Boston if he was intent on a career in broadcasting.

Ray was a freshman in the fall of 1963. The assassination of President John Kennedy in Dallas on November 22 shifted Ray’s focus from sports to news.

"I remember right after it happened.  We have a school newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon. Those of us who were in the building at the time ran up to the Beacon and we put out a special edition of the Berkeley Beacon on the spot with what information we knew about the assassination of the President.  We ran out to Beacon Street and literally handed out the paper to cars at the stop lights, so a major story like that again, kind of got me more interested in news," Ray explained.

While at Emerson, Ray also worked part time at a radio station in Worcester.  After graduation in 1967, he went into active duty National Guard.

In early 1968, Ray had a job interview at WHYN with then News Director Durham Caldwell.  It went well, but Ray said that he forgot to leave his contact information.

"I remember coming in for the interview and I remember meeting Durham, so he ripped off some UPI copy for me to read and I was kind of scared.   I was a young kid then, the adrenaline was pumping.  I was a little nervous, so I read the news as best I could in the booth.  After that, I got out, I was talking to Durham and the rest is a blur," Ray noted.

However, Durham found Ray and offered him the job. 

After five years in radio, Ray made the transition into TV. It went well, he said, for a couple of reasons.

"There were great people in television that I worked with at the time. Durham, I can't say enough about how he mentored me. He was a real role model for me as I was getting into the business," Ray said.

In the late seventies, Ray anchored his first newscasts and was eventually teamed with Cora Ann Mihalek to anchor the 11 p.m. news.  He called it an exciting time.

"They were giving young people to anchor, to be on television and that's how I got the opportunity at that particular time," Ray said.

That was also the time when technology was changing too - going from film to videotape in the field.

"Technology is always at the forefront of what's going on in the business.  As I said before, we started in film, then we went to tape, now it's all digital equipment.  The fact that we can go live now on the spot from just about anywhere where we can get a cell phone signal," Ray explained.

The way the news is delivered has changed, but Ray said that the way you tell a story to your viewers has not.

"I try to be, number one, factual.  You get your facts straight.  You look for visual enhancement of a story through what the photographer shoots and what the videographer shoots, so you meld those together with the script, the writing, the videography and try to tell the story on the news in a minute and a half," Ray sai.d.

Through his reporting, Ray built his reputation with our viewers.

"Your work speaks for itself.  After a period of time, over a number of years, if you've been fairly successful, if you continue to try to attain those high standards, the credibility does come into play and people will, the more they see you, I think the more they see your work, will say 'You know, he tries to do a fair job, he does a good job and when he's on, I can listen to a story and believe what he's saying,'" Ray noted.

Ray had opportunities to move to bigger markets, but liked working where he grew up from the day he started, but he said that there was another factor.

"One of the clinchers was the fact that right after I started working there, I met Maureen, who I've been married now for 48 plus years. She was visiting the station.  At the time, her sister was the receptionist at the radio station to visit.  I was talking to the receptionist at the time and we met, her sister fixed us up on a date.  We started dating, one thing led to another.  We were engaged and married within a year...and that was back in '69.  We were married in February of 70.  There's nothing wrong with working here or at a place for 50 years. If you love your work, you love the people you work with and they treat you with respect. So all those factors being considered, we established our roots here, raised our family here, kids went to school here and there you have it," Ray recalled.

A 50 year career in one place is unheard of in a business where there’s so much turnover and transition.  So what does he see as the keys to his longevity?

"Number one, I believe it's an inherent passion that I have for the work.  I think to be in this business, or any business for a time, you have to have a passion for what you do and I'll never forget my parents who instilled in me a strong work ethic.  They were hard working themselves, they worked a couple of jobs, helping to send me through college, so I've always have that work ethic instilled in me from my parents," Ray explained.

A work ethic and passion that his viewers recognized in each and every story and broadcast.

"To have people tune in every night to see the news, see what you're doing is very, very rewarding and it's going to be tough to stop doing that on a daily basis now because it's so much a part of my life. It's going to be a different feeling now," Ray said.

So now - Ray looks ahead to a new chapter in his life.

"But after 50 years Dave, in this business and it's a high pressure business, there's deadline pressure all the time, but it's a business we certainly love and have a passion for.  It's time in one’s life to open a new chapter, you know maybe move on to something different, but I will be around and if need be come back and help sometime," Ray added.

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