Long-time KGET news director retires

Long-time KGET news director retires

John Pilios spent 13 years leading the KGET news team. He had a passion for helping people in our community.
BAKERSFIELD - After nearly 14 years at the helm of 17 News, John Pilios retired Wednesday from his post at KGET TV.

Before coming to Bakersfield in 1999, Pilios was news director at KCOY TV in Santa Maria, the city where he broke into broadcasting as a radio disc jockey in 1977.

Those who know him say John's passion for news and compassion for the people of the Golden Empire never faltered during his tenure at Circle 17.

When he came out of the Navy in 1970, John Pilios kicked around for a while, trying to find the right job.

"I did a lot of jobs that you could say I wasn't very good at. But I'd always wanted to be in broadcasting", Pilios said.

His dream was to be a baseball play-by-play announcer. Vin Scully was his idol.

But, his wife Cindy was not dialed in on John's dream.

"I always felt a little guilty about it. I wouldn't let him do it...dragging our daughter around the states doing what I thought was a stupid thing," she said.

So, John and wife Cindy and baby daughter Dawn established roots in Santa Maria.

Born Basileiuos Pilios in the Bronx, New York in 1948, he was known as Basil to his family and friends. But, when he broke into radio in 1977 as a top 40 d.j., he took on the moniker of Johnny Dickson.

In 1982, Pilios transitioned into radio news, then television news in 1987, reporting on events making headlines on the central coast.

In 1990, he was hired as news director at KCOY TV in Santa Maria, a post he held for eight years until coming to KGET TV as assistant news director in 1999.

John's approach to news has always been very straightforward.

"Being a compassionate journalist and a pursuer of the truth and the two things can coexist easily, and that's what I've tried to impart on the people I've worked with," Pilios said.

Former 17 News anchor Robin Mangarin called Pilios a newsman's newsman, with a straightforward, ethical and factual approach to news.

"Which was sometimes in conflict with my approach, which was more apt to be along the lines of what's going to make me look up from cutting onions in the kitchen," Mangarin said.

KGET's Vice President and General Manager Tom Randour said Pilios' integrity in news "is just beyond reproach."

Pilios guided 17 News through a remarkable period in broadcast journalism, from analog to digital cameras and transmitters, to non-linear editing and the advent of multi-media journalism, overseeing essentially two news platforms, one for TV and another for the internet.

"I think the jury is out whether news is changing for the better, but like it or not, it's changing. It's a part of the consolidation of the workforce in our business and for good or better, it's here to stay," said Pilios.

One of his proudest accomplishments was his leading role in ushering in Kern County's first local Hispanic news station, KKEY-Telemundo.

"We ran the competition off. They do L.A. news now. We are the only Spanish news broadcast in Kern County," Pilios said.

Being a news director is a stressful job, filling four-and-a-half hours of news every weekday.

"I've been in the business for 36 years, and every morning I wake up and the clock is ticking. And I love my job, but the clock is always ticking and we gotta feed the news beast and worry about what the stories are," he said.

And on top of that, John Pilios took an active and at times pro-active role in serving the non-profit community of Kern County, a role many news directors assign to other TV station staffers.

Tom Randour said, "He was one of the best news directors probably I've ever seen in that respect. In all seriousness, John was very dedicated to this community."

Whether it was a barbecue for the Sheriff's Activities League, collecting fans for the disadvantaged or the Relay for Life, John marshaled his forces at KGET and got the word out to our loyal and generous viewers.

Former Bakersfield Fire Department Battalion Chief and Red Cross volunteer Garth Milam said, "We'd go to John, and he'd invariably say just tell me 'what do you need.?'"

"I remember having that first meeting with you and John and we asked a few questions and before we got done with our speel, he said okay, we're done, whatever you need we're there," said Wendy Porter, founder of the Kern County Wounded Heroes Fund.

"I don't know of another person in broadcasting who's more dedicated to community. His support is always available when needed," said Louis Gill, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center.

His management style was rooted in fairness, always pushing to get the most out of his staff as we fed the news beast every day.

"I tried to treat everyone fairly. I don't think as a good manager you treat everybody the same because that's not what being a manager is about. You treat everyone fairly. Everyone has a different 'go' button. Some need some yelling, others a softer touch," Pilios said.

And now, a softer life ahead for John and his wife Cindy.

"She works three days in Santa Maria right now and she told me the other day she's thinking about working six," Pilios said, laughing. "For the first year, I plan to hone the fine art of relaxation. I told Cindy the other day, I think I'm going to buy a fishing pole."

So, good luck John. You will be missed.

And as you're reelin' in the years, remember there will always be a dock space open for you here in Bakersfield.

KGET's Assistant News Director Michael Trihey now assumes the helm at 17 News.
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