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Groundbreaking Texas broadcaster Patti Smith plans her next move

 - TAB’s 2004 Broadcaster of the Year announces retirement

Patti Card Smith, one of Texas broadcasting’s most admired leaders, announced this month she’s stepping down as head of KVUE-TV Austin after 17 years as its president and general manager. The move caps a 41-year career that never would have happened had she believed a college professor who told her women didn’t belong in the business.

She vowed to prove him wrong and, boy did she ever, advancing through the ranks after starting as a master control operator at KTBC-TV in Austin while still in college.

With degree in hand, she took a job as receptionist at KGBT-TV in the Rio Grande Valley where she’d return at night and on weekends to run camera.  The commitment and dedication she displayed would soon become her trademark, fostering a return to the Austin station where she got her start and eventually became the first woman to direct a newscast in Austin.

She was quickly promoted to director of broadcast facilities overseeing KTBC’s production, film and traffic departments.

In 1981, Smith stepped away from the station world to run an independent production company and work in new business development for Austin CableVision, but returned to her first calling as promotions director and account executive for KBVO-TV Austin.

After a stint as operations manager, news director and local/regional sales manager at KGBT, she took her first GM job in 1990 at crosstown rival KVEO-TV, taking it from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability within a year. 

“That was one of the best experiences of my life,” she told the Austin American-Statesman after announcing her retirement. “I like to say we were the No. 4 station in a three-station market, but we turned it around. If you hire great people and treat them with respect, they can do magic.”

She returned to Austin in 1999 to helm KVUE, then owned by Belo, the legendary broadcast group founded in Texas and now owned by TEGNA.

Just three years later, the station was presented with the NAB Education Foundation’s Service to America Award, the highest honor in the country for public service performed by a radio or television station.

KVUE was cited by the RTNDA in 2002 for its record of making diversity work in both hiring practices and news coverage.

A tireless advocate for the industry, Smith has been key to TAB’s legislative successes in Austin and Washington, DC, helping lawmakers understand the impact of threats to journalism and the value of local broadcasting in communities’ economic and social wellbeing.

One of a handful of broadcasters who have completed two separate tours of duty on the TAB Board of Directors, Smith chaired the Annual Convention three consecutive years, led the NCSA committee charged with generating half of TAB’s revenues and spearheaded a Texas broadcast history project to mark TAB’s 50th anniversary in 2003.

Smith was honored by her peers in 2004 with TAB’s Broadcaster of the Year Award, one of Texas broadcasting’s most coveted honors, and served as TAB’s Chairman of the Board in 2006.

She currently serves on the Texas Broadcast Education Foundation which awards $21,000 in scholarships to college students pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism, production or engineering, and volunteers with a number of community groups and charities.

“Every station has gear and resources to get them on the air…it’s the people inside the building that make a station great,” Smith told KVUE staffers in announcing her retirement.

That philosophy, combined with her respect for the civic responsibility that comes with an FCC license and her unbridled passion for truth in journalism, is the root of a storied career that has advanced every community she has served.

Smith’s last day in the station is May 31, after which she’ll travel a bit, reconnect with family and further hone her photography skills, a passion that jumpstarted her career. Once she has decompressed, she’ll consider new opportunities to continue giving back to the industry she loves.

“It’s the end of a chapter,” she said. “It’s not the end of the book.”

For the legions of broadcasters, policymakers and community leaders who have worked with and admired Smith throughout her career, that’s good news, indeed.

Patti C. Smith & Ann Arnold
Caption (from l to r): TAB's Past President, Ann Arnold, and 2004 TAB Broadcaster of the Year, Patti C. Smith.

Questions? Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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