Heartland Chapter Inductees


Susan Cadot

A broadcast journalist with 30 years of experience, some of the best assets Susan Cadot has brought to her broadcasting career are a creative vision for packaging a story and a remarkable talent for writing. She is an amazing storyteller who can weave a tale using just the right words to mesh with well-chosen images. When creating her segments, she also has the good sense to know when to be quiet and let the video tell the story. Photographers love to work with her. The result is a top-notch catalog of enticing television programs that will last for years in rebroadcast.

Susan began her career at Oklahoma City’s ABC Affiliate, KOCO TV 5 in 1989 where she worked on-air on "Good Morning, Oklahoma". After 18 months at KOCO, Susan moved to northeast Tennessee where she stayed for ten years at a network affiliate anchoring the prime-time evening newscasts and reporting from the field covering everything from ribbon cuttings to mass murders, natural disasters, and national political figures. While in Tennessee, Susan discovered a passion for documentary work when she wrote, edited, and produced a one-hour documentary about the mass murder of a family. She covered the story over the course of a year for her newscast but felt there was more to say about the heinous crime. That one-hour show ended up winning the best documentary from the Tennessee Associated Press.

In 2000, Susan returned home to Oklahoma and began her dream job producing documentaries full-time for the state’s PBS affiliate. During her first 7 years at OETA, Susan produced content for the hour-long, issues-oriented program "Stateline" where she and the rest of the station’s documentary team won an Emmy® for two years of work on a special program chronicling the construction of a dome on the Oklahoma State Capitol. Susan’s portion of the program dealt with the dome’s structure and how it was made. Alongside the photographer, Susan climbed the dizzying 8 stories to the top of the dome scaffolding to interview the workers who were putting the limestone pieces into place. Back on the ground, she was equally comfortable interviewing the Oklahoma Governor and the supervisors of the crews building the dome. When the documentary was completed, it went on to win an Emmy® for Susan and the others who worked on it. In 2017, at the request of the Governor of Oklahoma, on the 100th anniversary of the capitol building dedication, the documentary "Oklahoma Rising" was broadcast again.

Susan continued to work on dozens of significant and diverse "Stateline" documentary topics, including unusual religions in Oklahoma, the decline of newspapers, the crisis at county jails, career opportunities for the mentally challenged, families dealing with autism, the status of transplants for patients with life-threatening ailments, and unsolved crimes. In each instance, Susan used her interviewing skills blended with likability and empathy for those who shared their information with her. Her work built an ever-growing network of friends and officials who trusted her.

In 2008, Susan changed the content of her storytelling to pursue a long-time ambition of sharing stories about the arts, covering the Oklahoma arts scene for OETA. Susan gave OETA viewers a comprehensive tour of the extraordinary artwork that fills the walls of the State Capitol, took them to a ringside seat at the National Cake Decorators’ competition, let them hear what motivates someone who has happily made a career out of acting, even though Broadway is more than a thousand miles away, showed the inner workings and dedication of the musicians who make up the state’s two major University marching bands (Emmy winner), and opened everyone’s eyes about what it takes to raise farm animals destined for intense livestock competition at the Oklahoma State Fair (Emmy winner). Along the way, Susan showcased dozens of individual artists and performers. Amber Sharples, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Arts Council, says: "Susan’s efforts on 'Gallery America' and other programs for the arts and more highlight her determination to give viewers compelling perspectives into rich and nuanced issues that are too often rarely given the spotlight but are nonetheless vital for an educated, democratically-governed society."

She has won 4 Emmy® awards for her work and a Best of Show and First place award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association; a National Clarion Award from Women in Communication, along with several awards from state journalism organizations, OBA, SPJ, and the Associated Press. In December of 2016, Susan received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award in Media.

Sam Jones

Sam Jones is a television legend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his career working in radio and television in Arkansas, eventually in production, as a reporter, and weekend anchor for KTHV-TV, the CBS affiliate in Little Rock. His beat became state government with a focus on the Governor's office. In 1976, he was promoted to the Monday through Friday prime anchor spot. After six months, he was offered the additional duties of Assistant News Director.

Not long after this promotion, news came of the American Embassy takeover in Iran. Three military personnel and one political prisoner were from Arkansas. The station sent Sam to what was then West Germany to cover their pending release. The first time was a false alarm, but the second time they were released, and he was there for their arrival. In addition to stories he sent to his home state by satellite, he soon found himself a junior member of the CBS news team as a stringer. He filed stories for both his station in Little Rock and for CBS news. He was sent to Washington, D.C. to cover the official "welcome home" ceremonies at the White House.

Sam Jones was recruited to work at KJRH-TV Tulsa in 1981 as their evening anchor. He started covering city and county government. His goals were evident: to tell stories about the treasures of Oklahoma, the people and their day-to-day accomplishments. Sam quickly became known as a man who not only anchored the news but as a skilled reporter who knew how to ask tough questions and find answers. He spent many years both in front of and behind the camera and continues to pass his knowledge on to those wanting to learn about true journalism.

Sam has spent his life working to tell the stories of others and advocate for those who may not have had a voice. His career has put him in the room with everyone from civil rights activist Rosa Parks to former President Bill Clinton. Long before he ever moved to the Heartland market, he had established himself as a journalist who knew the value of good storytelling and the importance of giving others a voice.

Many still talk about a documentary it took a year for him to write and produce called "Spirit of The Fire." Working virtually every weekend in the Cookson Hills of Western Oklahoma, Sam was allowed to take cameras into the Keetoowah society and document their way of life and ceremonies. He took viewers on a journey and gave them a glimpse of things never seen before by the outside world. Many of the interviews and conversations were translated from Cherokee so viewers could understand the processes and words. The historic piece is now housed in the Smithsonian and is still used today as a marker for the right way to share the story of a people and their journey. A second documentary, "The Little Giant from Little Dixie," on the life of former Speaker of the House Carl Albert, is also in the Smithsonian collection.

Sam used his "Traveling 2 Country" series to introduce viewers to people like Charles Banks Wilson, an Oklahoma artist whose works hang in the Smithsonian, Washington's Library of Congress, and the Oklahoma State Capitol.

In 1990, he was offered the dual role of anchor/producer of "Oklahoma Forum," a daily public affairs show on KTFO-TV. In 1992, management asked him to host "Open Line," a nightly one-hour show that involved Sam fielding live phone calls. He also wrote, produced, and anchored hour and half-hour specials. A few years later, in 1994, KOTV-TV, the CBS affiliate, called, offering Sam the chance to do his call-in show there. Plus, they wanted him to have live music, to hire a band of his choice, and to expand the content. Sam added humorous news headlines, interviews, and guest musicians. He hired the Sonny Gray Trio, all members of the Jazz Hall of Fame and well known across the country and in Tulsa. In its first year, the new show, "You're On," with Sam Jones, earned an Emmy nomination in the interview and discussion category.

In 1996, Sam broke the story of an ongoing shooting situation in which Tulsa Police Officer Dick Hobson was killed and officer Steve Downey was injured. His coverage received an Emmy nomination.

Sam has a way of telling the stories of the hidden and sometimes forgotten people of this state. From young elementary school-aged kids competing in the Special Olympics to a young man scratching out a life on the streets and living in a dumpster.

Since 2006, Sam has hosted and helped produce a weekly public affairs show, "Green Country Perspectives," at RSU-TV, where he also mentors young broadcast and writing students. He received two Emmys for programs "Not in My Family" on domestic abuse, and a half-hour special on country music legend "Jana Jae".

His integrity and the ability to look into the souls of the people in the stories he tells have always shone through his work. This also tells what kind of person he is. Honest, listening, proud, with his eyes always open to what and who is around him and the stories they have to share.

Tony Kovaleski

"Stories produce stories," Tony Kovaleski often says. He's right. If Tony didn't live by that principle, he wouldn't be the stellar journalist, mentor, and everyday person Colorado knows well today.

Tony's story as a journalist began in Eureka, California in 1983. He held nearly every job title at the tiny KIEM-TV. He then moved to Reno, Nevada, where he worked for roughly five years at KTVN-TV, leaving the station as assistant news director.

Like anyone who has a large, infectious personality, Tony eventually outgrew the confines of small-market television. His career began to flourish after he accepted a general assignment and investigative reporting job at KNXV-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, where we have documented proof that his signature suspenders were born into his wardrobe long before his time in Denver!

Tony has earned some of the highest honors in television journalism – deservedly so. Just in the last decade, he picked up a National Emmy Award, a Sigma Delta Chi Award, and an Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Award. He's also collected more than two dozen local and regional awards.

Tony's work has had a profound impact on the communities he's served. In 2008, he uncovered emergency response failures at Denver International Airport, which forced the City of Denver to position a full-time ambulance there. In 2010, he exposed Governor-appointed directors for the state's largest worker's compensation insurance provider on a junket to Pebble Beach. Both stories have made Tony's name synonymous with high-quality investigative journalism.

Just last year, Tony's work changed how law enforcement agencies respond to domestic violence calls. Some of those agencies didn't prioritize the calls, which may have contributed to the deaths of a number of women.

This year, Tony's work has Colorado lawmakers addressing why schools are failing to tell parents about school employees who are accused of crimes. In one case, there's evidence that leaders at one of the most high-profile public school districts in the state covered up allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher. Their actions led to criminal charges against them and likely contributed to the teacher victimizing other students for years.

Unquestionably, Tony's reputation has made him one of the most trusted people in Colorado – even among people who had to answer some of his toughest questions in the field. Former longtime Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said, "Without exception, my interactions with Mr. Kovaleski have shown him to be forthright and direct – he might ask hard questions, but I always knew he would report honestly." Former Denver District Attorney Communications Director Lynn Kimbrough said, "In all the years I have known Tony, he has repeatedly proven that he is a tenacious searcher of the truth, a patient researcher of documents, and a fair reporter of facts that his searching uncovers."

Colleagues – past and present – laud Tony for having a profound impact on the television news industry on the whole. "Tony's reporting is courageous," former KMGH-TV News Director Jeff Harris said. "He has guts. I've been with him as he's stood up to the most powerful people and organizations. Most importantly, his reporting has stood up."

Anne Trujillo recalls working with Tony on several Columbine High School stories: "One night on Denver7, our station was airing an exclusive interview with the mother of one of the Columbine shooters, and we knew this would be a tough night of television for our Colorado families. Tony was instrumental in working with the 10pm team to create a compassionate newscast with personal stories of impact that did not sensationalize the event. That newscast won an Emmy® for Best 10pm Newscast.

Tony is also a mentor. He regularly interacts with young, aspiring journalists to share the tricks of the trade – to help their work stand out in a way that will benefit the communities they'll serve in their careers.

At a time when our critics are questioning the very nature of free speech and the free press, Tony is not stopping his hard-hitting reporting on issues of transparency, public corruption, and open government. He is laying the groundwork for the next generation of reporters. He is a dedicated teacher, coach, and mentor for investigative journalism – not only in his newsroom but in his company and amongst his professional colleagues. Reporters from cubs to veterans look up to Tony.