The Journalist with Stars in his Eyes
As television begins to archive its star power, we find Kevin Wing among its trailblazers. Yet you wouldn’t tell in a million years the mountains he had to climb, and the stars he reached to. After three decades in journalism, beyond accomplishment, he is the reason why despite life’s i-m-possible challenges, the spirit of hope and success thrives against all odds.
Early this year, the NBC journalist is invited in Los Angeles to record a voice over for “Suspense,” a radio production reboot of the classic show by the same name that aired on CBS radio from 1942 to 1962. The show was compared to "The Twilight Zone." In "The Voice of the World" episode, Kevin portrays a young man who befriends a pioneer radio broadcaster that revives an old radio station. His role both in the series and real-life suits him well. Kevin’s voice echoes deeply and thoughtfully and with a large smile anywhere he goes, you are in the presence of a television star.
Kevin arrives after a full day of recording from the Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood with two Emmys in hand to meet our cast at the Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes. Recently he was nominated once more along with his KNTV NBC Bay Area team for Breaking News of the North Bay Wildfires coverage in October.
“I was working on the assignment desk during these first 24 hours of the fire. Our work that day is demonstrative of our dedication to getting information to our audience as completely and as quickly as possible. Our goal was not only to inform but to help the community in any way we could during the crisis,” says Kevin.
As the photographer begins taking pictures and the passersby glance at the man in black suit holding the two gleaming Emmys, Kevin confesses with a smile how unusual it is to be the story. Because most of the time you find him producing it. Today however, the Malaga Cove Plaza Italian statue adorned within an elegant fountain is graced with his presence, occasionally sprinkling a few drops of water on his Emmys, which he doesn’t seem to mind.
“My favorite thing to write about, it is about people. There is something to be said about interviewing someone because everybody has a story. There are a lot of people out there who might not think that way about themselves. ‘I’m not interesting. There’s nothing there, there’s nothing interesting about me.’ All it takes is ten minutes maybe to just ask them a few questions and before you know it (you realize) that’s a story right there,” says Kevin.
Kevin started his first on-air job in television at KIEM-TV NBC in Eureka, California. At the station, it was also his first night on the air when the 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1989. By that time he had been working in TV for three years after having sent hundreds of audition tapes throughout the United States following his years at San Jose State University. “It was an incredible blessed introduction for me because I was the new kid on the block.” His wish to remain home in California came true, even if it meant that it would be in a little town named Eureka. Following the Superbowl, Kevin became the new face of the channel’s Sunday night news. It made it that much more special the fact that his on-camera debut that night coincided 25 years (and one day) later with his father’s passing. His father Lawrence Wing was a tv commercial and movie actor in big screen productions such as "Flower Drum Song" and "Dial M for Murder." His mother Helene Wing modeled in the 1950s and early 60s.
Eureka was temporary. The next 30 years would take him to become a favorite Bay Area reporter, producer, special projects producer, field producer, writer, assignment editor and news anchor. From his first job in journalism at the Independent Advocate Journal during his sophomore year of college, and then his dream internship at KTVU-Channel 2 in Oakland, California, Kevin remembers a chic dressed self and working alongside some of his favorite television personalities like the station's executive producer Richard Hall (the son of legendary game show host Monty Hall), news anchor Dennis Richmond, Elaine Corral and others. “These veterans, I walked in with stars in my eyes.”
In the early 1990s Kevin came back to KTVU to become an assignment editor and reporter for the station's new morning show, "Mornings On 2", the first local show of its kind west of the Mississippi. Other roles he has taken include the South Bay Bureau Assignment Manager and Reporter at KGO-TV ABC 7, field producer for “Good Morning America,” and at NBC Bay Area where he is today again as assignment producer. Kevin also profiles the San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' “Gold and Silver Circle Profiles,” a Chapter that features its distinguished inductees and where he served twice as Vice-President.
To follow his career, Kevin admits is quite a challenge. He has worked, freelanced and consulted for various television stations and networks, including his own media production company, Kevin Wing Media Communications. His stories span across covering wildfires, earthquakes, sports and providing live essential information to the public, a fact that is both needed and one, as a journalist, he is still fascinated by. In the fast-paced world of news and television if anything remains constant is his appreciation for the profession of television journalism.
“In this day and age now, it’s out there in the culture that maybe we are not who we say we are. That’s why when people ask me what I do, I usually just say journalist. Not because I am trying to gloss it over. The term journalist is very important to me,” says Kevin.
Innately his enthusiasm and career path are a reflection of his spirit amidst a broken and mended heart at destiny’s whim. It is a tough story that still brings tears to his eyes. The ten-year-old boy whose favorite spot would be to pass by KTVU-2 studios in Oakland, California discovered too soon that courage and dreams come together on the journey we call life.
“Around the time I was seven or eight my appearance started to change. My facial features started to change. Basically, what it was, my cheekbones stopped growing with the rest of me. In our family we’re mixed. We’re primarily Chinese and Spanish. We have round eyes. When this part of me stopped developing it made my eyes protrude. When you’re a kid, everybody makes fun of you. I think my mom said I was eight when things started to look different and she was always wondering why people were staring. She saw me every day, so she didn’t see the change. But she was noticing kids making fun, pointing fingers or even the grownups staring. So, she took me to see a specialist at the UCSF Medical Center and did some studies, tests and everything and we saw a bunch of different doctors, really good doctors. And they said, well, your son has what’s called Crouzon Syndrome.”
A decade later he took a chance at a new life, a personal investment most of us would never have to face. At 21 years old in the summer of 1984 Kevin went in for a ten-hour surgery at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center that would repair any “scars” which Crouzon Syndrome had left. "My mom deserves all the credit, she really deserves it. She kept her promise to me that, when I was fully grown, we could explore the surgery option to fix the birth defect. But, because the surgery was considered cosmetic, insurance would not take care of it. My mom set up a payment plan with the hospital that lasted five years. Hospitals usually don't do this. My charming Mom certainly charmed them," shares Kevin.
The rest is history. He would go on to win various honors and awards from the Radio Television News Directors Association, Telly Awards, Associated Press Television Radio Association, San Francisco Peninsula Press Club, Joey Awards, Communicator Awards and the San Francisco Bay Area Publicity Club. In recognition of 25 or more years of contributions to the Bay Area and Northern California television industry, in 2013, the TV academy chapter inducted him into the distinguished Silver Circle. The Chapter also honored Kevin with a Governor’s Service Medallion.
“The industry also wants you to look a certain way more than ever before in this day and age. When I had this birth defect, I guess what I’m trying to say is if I didn’t have it corrected, perhaps none of this may have ever happened. It gave me courage, strength and confidence,” says Kevin.
Somehow on the receiving end, his tears transform into a source of inspiration and joy. Despite the fact that Kevin’s work is more rooted in the Golden State’s coverage as a Bay Area native, and that he would like to travel more, his story has a worldwide appeal. Yet Kevin humbly prides himself in journaling for the little guy. He remembers reading newspapers with his mother, even before he could decipher on his own the news lead to each story. He was also inspired, at the age of 10, by Fred Van Amburg, the legendary news anchor of San Francisco's KGO-TV Channel 7, to aim for a television news career. "I watched Van all the time when I was growing up. I wanted to be him, as ridiculously silly as that sounds today. I never got to work with Van, but I met him in later years."
“I liked the challenge of learning about, you know how the world revolved. Every day, whether it’s your neighborhood or your city or your state or the world. It was fascinating,” says Kevin.
“The sooner you know that you have access to that front row seat, the better. The sooner you know that you have it, the better you are, the better you will be as far as being a journalist,” says Kevin.
Today, besides Kevin's work for NBC and his production company, he is also a journalism professor at Ohlone College, a place where he graduated from decades ago. Kevin passes on the baton of journalism tied closely to the integrity of this profession which he holds at the highest regard. While it seems that our generation has tough sailing waters ahead finding itself amidst the polluted waters of miscommunication, there are many veterans like Kevin whose platform of a more traditional journalism becomes a digital resource valuable to any generation. Even more, Kevin’s courage, strength and success become inducted into a television archive, an open book for anyone to read, one that comes with the highest award and Wing’s free human spirit to match it.