News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 14, 2013

End of an era: WTHI-TV anchor Allen has come long way since debut in 1967

TERRE HAUTE — Reflecting on his career at WTHI-TV, Jim Swander pokes fun at retiring news anchor Mark Allen saying, “He has made millions by reading a teleprompter at a sixth-grade level.”

Both Allen and Swander, local sales manager, are retiring next month from WTHI-TV. They were honored at a party Thursday night at Stables Steakhouse.  

Allen’s debut in television started in 1967 at WTWO, where he spent 23 years, moving up the ladder to reach the assistant general manager position. In 1990, he switched stations, coming WTHI-TV as managing editor and nighttime anchor.

Mike Cleff, anchor from WLFI in West Lafayette, will succeed Allen at WTHI-TV’s 6 p.m. anchor.

“They (WTHI-TV) take the business so seriously and I have really enjoyed the fact that they are involved in the community,” Allen said. “That is not always the case, especially for TV stations.”

One such case of community involvement, Allen reminisced, was when he spent four nights living as a homeless person to raise awareness of the problem in the Terre Haute area. He used a laptop and camera to tape his struggle as he searched for food and a place to sleep every day. Allen said that he saw this form of reporting, as well as similar stories, as the keystone moments in his career.

“I enjoyed the human interest stories — putting people that normally wouldn’t make the news in the spotlight can make a difference,” he added.

On a lighter note, Allen recalled some of the funnier times behind the scenes, such as during commercial breaks when the news crew would joke around. Allen was most amused when something in the news set would go wrong.

“It would seem like the worst travesty at the time,” Allen said with a smile.  “We look back at those times now and laugh.”

His colorful personality shone through during Thursday’s party, as Patrece Dayton, Allen’s co-anchor for 23 years, emphasized that working with him was “similar to a well-choreographed dance.”

The couple then shared an actual dance as the attendees clapped and laughed — clearly entertained.  

“The best years are still ahead for broadcast news,” Allen said. “If you like people and telling stories, then I recommend getting into broadcast. It has taken me so many places in the world.”

Susan Dinkel, news editor and 5 p.m. anchor, said she has enjoyed Allen’s service with WTHI.

“I adore you, and there is another chapter in your life,” she said in front of the crowd. “I am ready to see it unfold.”

Through Allen’s broadcasting career, he has accumulated awards and recognition. In 2013, he was inducted into the Indiana Associated Press Hall of Fame, and in 2012, he was inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Association Pioneers Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was inducted into the Silver Circle.

But his most prestigious honor was being named one of the top 100 journalists in the nation in the mid-1980s by the Washington Journalism Review.

As Allen took a deep breath after his 46 years in television, he reflected on the changes that broadcast journalism has undergone. One thing, though, he said, has survived the test of time, and that is the people’s desire for reliable journalism.

“People have and always will want honest and truthful reporting.”

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and dustyn.fatheree@tribstar.com.

 

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