Bill Whitsitt’s contributions to Montana broadcasting spanned a rich career in radio and television in Big Sky Country. They also provided the foundation for regional and national achievements in public affairs communication and advertising.
From a high school radio program start on KUDI in Great Falls in 1961, until he led creation of, and managed, the Montana Television Network (MTN) news organization in 1971-73 with its unique interconnected approach to statewide news and public affairs programming, Bill sought and supported broadcasting innovation and excellence. Along the way he worked during his College of Great Falls degree program as a KFBB Radio announcer, a KUDI Top 40 DJ, and KRTV announcer.
After college, Bill became KRTV’s first fulltime news director. He was later awarded a CBS News Fellowship for graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City. Upon his return to Great Falls the MTN News operation was born. MTN firsts included statewide televised political debates, unique documentaries and “mini-documentaries” in regular news programs on such topics as Montana’s Hutterites and what Lewis and Clark would actually have seen – and could still be seen – along the Missouri River.
Later as a congressional staff member and in the private sector he focused on energy policy, was an energy trade advisor under three presidents, earned a Ph.D., and taught policy dynamics at George Washington University. When the shale energy revolution began, Bill led a successful national educational and advertising effort to change the country’s energy shortage perception to one recognizing America’s energy abundance.
Even from outside Montana, he continued to work to support Montana broadcasting. For nearly twenty years he was a trustee of the Greater Montana Foundation (GMF). Returning with his wife, Kristy, to retire in Bigfork in 2013, Bill became GMF chairman, encouraging innovative grants for special broadcast programming and a series of leading-edge communication research surveys in the state. The latter have helped broadcasters and others understand changing uses of media, and implications for media business and communication models of the future.
Bill always believed that innovation and excellence make differences. And that they depend on personal energy and commitment, teamwork – and wisdom and opportunities provided by those who’ve gone before.