Jim McKay

Sports Broadcaster


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Jim McKay (1921-2008) talks about starting his career in 1947 at WMAR-TV in Baltimore. He discusses going on to work with producer Roone Arledge at the beginning of ABC's Wide World of Sports, staying nearly four decades with the job as the show's host and commentator. McKay speaks about hosting the network's coverage of the Olympic Games for over 30 years, including his critical coverage of the terrorist hostages and killings that interrupted the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Gerry Sandusky conducted the interview in Monkton, MD on October 28, 1998.

"We were going to tape the voiceover in the studio and Roone Arledge says, 'I think that opening stinks.' I said, 'I do, too.'  So we went into an engineer's room with a bunch of equipment and we sat down and put some words together, not knowing they would still be heard years later, about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

Highlights
Jim McKay on the transformative role of television in sports history and coverage
04:34
Jim McKay on advice on how to break into television
00:55
Jim McKay on what has changed most in television and sports tv
Jim McKay on the philosophy behind Wide World of Sports "if you can get them interested in individuals, you can get them interested in the sport"
Jim McKay on having to tell the world that the Israeli hostages taken at the 1972 Olympic games, were "all gone"
00:40
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early childhood and influences; his early interest in sports
On his World War II service in the Navy; on meeting his wife Margaret; on starting to work in news
On the new television medium; how he began his career in television

Chapter 2

On his early career in broadcasting; National Sports Parade; moving to New York
On his radio show, The Real McKay;
On losing his show at CBS; meeting Roone Arledge; on The Morning Show with Walter Cronkite; on The Verdict is Yours, a daytime courtroom show; on the advent of videotape
On how the advent of videotape changed the way shows were scheduled and prevented him from covering sports; how he thought his career was over; on turning down his first Olympic coverage opportunity; on being offered a chance to host the Summer Olympic Games on CBS

Chapter 3

On covering the Summer Olympics in 1968; the first foreign Olympics to be televised in the U.S.
On ABC's Wide World of Sports; on advice to those who want to break into television
On the philosophy behind ABC's Wide World of Sports
On how Roone Arledge was hired to ABC's Wide World of Sports and how they hired different commentators

Chapter 4

on how ABC handled coverage of the 1964 Olympics
on the first time TV was used to decide an Olympic event at the 1968 Games
on the 1972 Olympic Games; the hostages in Munich and how he came to be on-air
on why he thinks the hostage event stands out as a memorable event for so many
on the details of the day the hostages were taken; where Peter Jennings was
on the hostages themselves and his connection to the story
on when he was told the hostages had been killed; his reaction

Chapter 5

On reporting on the Olympics following the tragedy of the 1972 Games
On the influence of women on the Olympics; Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill; on other Olympic stars
On the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; how the coverage has changed
On Wide World of Sports, after Roone Arledge left the show
On the role television has played in Sports history and what sports get coverage; on sponsorship and the changes in sports and athleticism
On cable television's impact on sports television
On his most memorable interviews: Fidel Castro

Chapter 6

On his colleagues Walter Cronkite, Howard Cosell, Roone Arledge, and his wife
Shows

ABC's Wide World of Sports

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Jim McKay on how he was hired onto Wide World of Sports by Roone Arledge when he was out of a job
01:50
Jim McKay on why he wanted to do ABC's Wide World of Sports and impressions of the producer Roone Arledge
Jim McKay on the philosophy behind ABC's Wide World of Sports "if you can get them interested in individuals, you can get them interested in the sport"
Jim McKay on how broadcasting from Moscow helped keep ABC's Wide World of Sports on the air
Jim McKay on the opening for ABC's Wide World of Sports and how it changed
Jim McKay on the small staff on Wide World of Sports when they went on-air: Chet Simmons, Roone Arledge, and Ed Scherick
On how Roone Arledge was hired to ABC's Wide World of Sports and how they hired different commentators
Jim McKay on covering Demolition Derbys on ABC's Wide World of Sports; not taking it seriously at first
01:15
Jim McKay on how technology changed things for sports television: tape versus live TV in auto-racing
01:42
Jim McKay on winning an Emmy for ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1968
02:43
Jim McKay on Wide World of Sports after Roone Arledge's departure
Jim McKay on how cable television negatively impacted Wide World of Sports

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Jim McKay on winning an Emmy for ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1968
01:48

Morning Show, The

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Jim McKay on working with Walter Cronkite on The Morning Show on CBS as the sports guy

Olympics

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Jim McKay on hosting the Summer Olympics on CBS, which initially were ad-libbed
03:14
Jim McKay on broadcasting from the first foreign Olympics to be televised in the United States, the 1960 Summer Games in Rome; on interviewing Cassius Clay; on Abebe Bikila.
Jim McKay on how CBS handled coverage of the 1964 Olympics
03:11
Jim McKay on the first time TV was used to decide an event; the 1968 Olympics
02:53
Jim McKay on the Israeli hostage crisis during the 1972 Munich Olympics
18:09
Jim McKay on how the Olympic Games have changed since 1972; Dorothy Hamill
Jim McKay on how the Olympic Games coverage has changed; the 1984 Games in Los Angeles
Topics

'The Idiot Box'

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Jim McKay on the challenge for TV to fill thousands of hours with quality programming
00:28

Olympic Games

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Jim McKay on the Israeli hostage crisis during the 1972 Munich Olympics

Sports

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Jim McKay on the new television medium: seeing a boxing match on TV for the first time
01:14

Technological Innovation

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Jim McKay on the new television medium: seeing a boxing match on TV for the first time
01:14
Jim McKay on the advent of videotape and the method of recording television and how it affected his schedule
05:33
Jim McKay on how technology changed things for sports television: tape versus live TV in auto-racing

War

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Jim MKay on his interview with Fidel Castro; asking him how close we came to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis

We Cried

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Jim McKay on having to tell the world that the Israeli hostages taken at the 1972 Olympic games, were "all gone"
Professions

Sportscaster

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Jim McKay on how he came to be the reporter during the hostage crisis at the 1972 Olympic Games
06:41
Jim McKay on sports versus news- "reporting is reporting" 
05:19
Genres

Sports

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Jim McKay on hosting the Summer Olympics on CBS, which initially were ad-libbed
03:14
Jim McKay on the philosophy behind ABC's Wide World of Sports "if you can get them interested in individuals, you can get them interested in the sport"
Jim McKay on the first time TV was used to decide an event: the 1968 Olympics
02:39
Jim McKay on the transformative role of television in sports history and coverage
Jim McKay on what has changed most in television and sports tv, and among the athletes themselves
People

Muhammad Ali

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Jim McKay on interviewing Muhammed Ali, known as Cassius Clay at the time
01:13

Roone Arledge

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Jim McKay on meeting Roone Arledge and being offered a job on ABC's Wide World of Sports
Jim McKay on his first impressions of ABC's Wide World of Sports' producer Roone Arledge
Jim McKay on the talents of producer Roone Arledge

Fidel Castro

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Jim McKay on his most memorable interview with Fidel Castro

Paddy Chayefsky

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Jim McKay on his friendship with writer Paddy Chayevsky

Howard Cosell

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Jim McKay on fellow broadcaster Howard Cosell

Walter Cronkite

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Jim McKay on working on The Morning Show with Walter Cronkite on CBS
Jim McKay on his long friendship with Walter Cronkite

Chet Simmons

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Jim McKay on the small staff on Wide World of Sports when they went on-air: Chet Simmons, Roone Arledge, and Ed Scherick

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