CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former TV newsman Bob Brunner said the tragic flood in Buffalo Creek Hollow, which took place exactly 42 years ago Wednesday, was the most frustrating and tragic story he ever covered.
A hollow with about 5,000 residents had 125 killed and 4,000 left homeless.
"TV is a visual medium," Brunner said. "[Former Gov. Arch] Moore was effective in keeping cameras away from Buffalo Creek. I remember being at a morgue in Man with Sen. Jennings Randolph. There were 50 body bags near us."
Brunner spoke at the University of Charleston Builders luncheon Wednesday about his long and fascinating experiences as a television reporter, news director and anchor.
Brunner spent more than 20 years at WSAZ-TV in Charleston, from 1968 to 1990, when he began working as communications director for Gov. Gaston Caperton. He then returned to working as a TV news reporter in Beckley and outside West Virginia.
Brunner told stories about funny lines he heard over the years during television news reports.
"One night on the 11 o'clock news, a reporter said, 'A Big Ugly woman has been beaten to death.'" Some viewers, he said, did not realize Big Ugly is a small town in Lincoln County.
"There have been so many wonderful things covering the news since the 1960s," he said.
Brunner talked about changes in words and vocabulary over the years.
"Back in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, we periodically had epidemics. But we haven't had an epidemic for 15 years," he said. "Now we periodically have pandemics."
"'Global warming' changed to 'climate change,'" Brunner said. "And now we have 'polar vortexes,' which sound so much more ominous than previous storms."
Brunner said he is sad about a reduction of reporters.
"We have fewer people reporting more stories," Brunner said. "When I was news director at WSAZ, we had 30 reporters. Now there are 20. WCHS used to have 28. Now there are 20.
"When you used to walk into the Gazette newsroom, things used to be so lively. Now there may only be five people in there," Brunner said.
Asked who was his favorite politician over the years, Brunner said, "Probably A. James Manchin. He was the first politician to figure out how to respond to a 30 to 40-second sound bite. A. James understood the media."
Manchin served as secretary of state and the state's treasurer.
"I also had respect for [Gov.] Arch Moore. He was a crook. But that man knew how to run state government."