Horizon 30th Anniversary Interview with Michael Grant

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On the 30th anniversary of Horizon, Ted Simons interviews Michael Grant who hosted Horizon for its first 25 years.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. 30 years ago, "Horizon" made its television debut. I'll talk with the program's long-time host Michael Grant in just a moment, but first David Majure takes a brief look back at the early days of "Horizon."

Michael Grant: Good evening, I'm Michael Grant.

Michael Grant: Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to "Horizon."

David Majure: "Horizon" hit the airwaves October 19th, 1981, with attorney Michael Grant hosting the program for its first 25 years.

Michael Grant: Your troops are getting increasingly dissatisfied because you don't confront the governor often enough. Are those stories accurate?

David Majure: With sharp focus Noel Fidel-depth coverage of state and local news, "Horizon" had no shortage of material to work with.

Michael Grant: First the retiring president of the Arizona state senate Stan Turley lashed out at fellow Republican and gubernatorial candidate Evan Mecham this week, calling Mr. Mecham an ethical pigmy.

David Majure: It covered the trials and troubles of Governor Evan Mecham, including gavel-to-gavel coverage of his senate impeachment hearings.

Michael Grant: There was the political corruption sting known as AZscam that featured dark video of state lawmakers accepting bribes. And the long struggle to pass a state that lay honoring Martin Luther King Jr. It cost Arizona a Super Bowl, but the story ended with the first voter-approved king day in the nation.

Howard Fischer :I Howard Fisher Phoenix bureau chief for the Arizona daily star.

David Majure: Friday's on "Horizons" are reserved for the journalist's round table where local reporters provide context and perspective on the week's top stories.

Michael Grant: Still don't have it.

David Majure: Many of the faces have changed, but "Horizon's" mission remains in-depth coverage of issues of concern to the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons: And here now to talk about that history is Michael Grant, "Horizon's" host from 1981-2006. It's good to have you.

Michael Grant: Who's counting?

Ted Simons: 25, that's a long time to be doing anything.

Michael Grant: Yeah. The viewers thought so too.
Ted Simons: It's good to see you here. Thanks so much for joining us. 30 years ago --

Michael Grant: Nice digs.

Ted Simons: Not bad, huh?
[Laughter] Let's talk, what was the idea behind "Horizon"?

Michael Grant: Well, the basic idea, the station had been without a daily news show for a couple of years. There was, I want to say there was a weekly news magazine that ran on like Saturday-Sunday. Bob Ellis, chuck Allen, had an absolute belief that in particular PBS affiliate couldn't establish a local identity without a local news show. So it was needed for that purpose. And the other purpose was needed, quite honestly, at that point in time, long-form interviewing, actually spending something more than let's say four, 15-second sound bytes was still pretty unusual. There was the Mcneil Lehrer report, because it was only about half an hour, "Nightline" had just kicked on, but that was about it.

Ted Simons: And then the idea for "Horizon," it gets its shape and they say, that Michael Grant guy, let's see if he's interested. Did you audition? How did that work out?

Michael Grant: Well, they contacted me, if I recall correctly, in the spring of 1981. And I had done some TV work for Channel Eight in the 1970s when I was in radio and there was -- a very short live show called "Arizona interaction." So they called and asked if I would be interested. And I said, yeah, it sounds like an interesting thing. I'm not sure I can practice law full-time and do five nights of television, but let me think about it. It wasn't scheduled to start until the fall. And I said sure. Let me -- let's try it for six months or so and then it turned out to be 25 years later.

Ted Simons: That's a long six months. In the beginning, now, correct me if I'm wrong here, because this is a long time ago, but as the Iran hostage scandal crisis was to "Nightline," basically spawned that program, the O'Conner confirmation hearing, if I remember correctly, pretty much got "Horizon," if not up and going, certainly a nice lead-in.

Michael Grant: No doubt it was a powerful kickoff. And it was wholly coincidental; we didn't know when we started talking about the show in the spring, looking to start it in the fall that Sandra Day O'Connor would be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in July. But quickly occurred to mostly chuck Allen that this would be an idea -- very high profile, an ideal opportunity, so we went back to Washington and broadcast. And I think Ted, it was the first time that Supreme Court confirmation hearings had been broadcast beginning to end. There certainly had been television coverage of them before, but I think that was the first time you actually covered in this case it was three days of the confirmation hearing.

Ted Simons: And if I remember correctly, from what I've been told, a little fight with PBS on that. They weren't sure Arizona should be doing all this after Arizona was doing all this.

Michael Grant: There was both an Arizona bias and also they wondered who young kid from Phoenix was. And why should he be with Paul Duke.

Ted Simons: Yeah. It worked out very well for you, very well for them. And it works out well for "Horizon." So off you go, the programs -- did it fill a niche? We talked about the genesis of the program. Once it got operational, lots of public policy, lots -- still is a focus for "Horizon," but was that considered new, different, required? What was the thought behind that?

Michael Grant: It was still considered pretty new and different. Certainly the reporter's round table, which we always knew would be the anchor and still is, would certainly be new to this market and in many respects was just new. There was Washington week in review, which Paul Duke had done for, gosh, maybe he'd been on the air for three or four years, now of course you got more talking heads than a ventriloquist convention, but reporters sitting around talking about the stuff, I used to say what they love about this show, they get to talk about all the stuff their editors cut out of their stories on Tuesday. And it really did give people I think a very much closer look at whatever news happened to be happening.

Ted Simons: The news that happened to be happening not too many years, five years, whatever it was after you started on the air, the Mecham impeachment trial. The whole Mecham impeachment story was massive. Talk about how you covered it and the reaction from the audience to that coverage.

Michael Grant: We covered it by running rapidly after Governor Mecham wherever he went and showed up, I mean literally. If he was some place, probably something was going to go wrong. And so I like to say that it was creative coverage, it really was just following -- and other reporters did the same thing. The governor's office didn't care for it a lot. The viewers, our ratings candidly went throughout roof. We were showing numbers like an entertainment program. Everybody was mesmerized. Understandably so.

Ted Simons: You weren't considered a nonperson by the governor, were you?

Michael Grant: No. John Colby did wear that badge with considerable amount of honor, and deservedly so.

Ted Simons: A nonperson. All right. So we got -- we have other stores, A.Z.CAM, again, how did "Horizon" separate itself from other coverage? Analysis for the most part?

Michael Grant: That was pretty much it. Again, getting back to this concept of I mean, if need be we could throw a five, six, seven, eight-minute taped piece, give you the background and call out people and round out the show with 15, 17, 18 more minutes of discussion. Obviously not everything requires that, you know that. But there's a fair amount of stuff that does, and we were singularly unique from the standpoint you weren't going to -- no criticism of the 10:00 p.m. news, but you're not going to get it there.

Ted Simons: Everything from AZcam to ALT fuels, the whole nine yards, back in those days did it seem like politics were as nasty as they are today?

Michael Grant: No, honestly not. There was -- I started covering the legislature in about 1971 when I was a radio reporter at KOI, in fact I want to say Sandra O'Connor was then senate -- Sandra O'Connor was the first woman senate majority leader in the state, I think. It was -- it just simply was a much different atmosphere. By that, I don't mean to say -- there was vigorous debate, discussion, but it was conducted on for lack after better term, a more polite level. You had Gutierrez, and Hamilton, and you had Stan Acres, and you had Burton Barr for a long time. And those guys were very, very good spokesmen for their parties and their individual and party philosophies, but you know would be friends.

Ted Simons: And we try to emphasize that even to this day. "Horizon's" always been a way for folks to settle down and speak in full sentences, and get paragraphs even at times. Fondest moment in 25 years of "Horizon."

Michael Grant: Geez. Fondest moment. Boy, that's a tough one. Certainly the O'Conner confirmation hearings, it's not a moment, but its three days that are pretty much etched in the brain. That would be the one that would come to mind first.

Ted Simons: Any stories you felt particularly uncomfortable covering?

Michael Grant: You know, in many respects there were times on the MECHAM story I felt uncomfortable with it. It almost became wrong, but sort of oppressive, there was so much stuff going wrong, so many easy shots to take, trying to avoid easy shots and instead get to the thing -- and just simply its duration. It kicks off effectively September of 1986, doesn't wrap up until the spring of '88. And you know, there certainly wasn't a week and often times there weren't very many days when there wasn't something going on. So it was almost fatiguing from that standpoint.

Ted Simons: Especially when you're doing it. I'm not tired of the story, why are you? Well we're doing it every night.
Michael Grant: Thant's right.
Ted Simons: Favorite guest?
Michael Grant: Oh, a lot of the Friday edition participants for sure. John Colby one of my favorites of all time.
Ted Simons: Yeah.
Michael Grant: Janet Boomer, you know started off the show.
Ted Simons: Yeah.
Michael Grant: Kevin Willy before she fled to Dallas. Those are ones -- I can't skip Howie Fischer.
Ted Simons: Sure you can!
Michael Grant: Although he's irritating.
Ted Simons: Yeah. Yes he is.
Ted Simons: I inherited him from you. Howie is great, and he's obviously is a lightning rod for both -- people love him, some don't love him quite as much, but he brings good information, one hell of a reporter.

Michael Grant: And he's one hard working reporter.

Ted Simons: Yes he is. Least favorites. Be as candid as you can here. We've all had interviews --

Michael Grant: I should have thought about this.

Ted Simons: For example, when I was in radio, Charlton Heston gave me the most rotten interview I had ever had in my life. He didn't want to do it, didn't want to be there, he was rotten from beginning to end.

Michael Grant: Oh you know what, Pat Paulson.
Ted Simons: Pat Paulson?
Michael Grant: Pat Paulson, Paulson for president, you know that kind of thing?

Ted Simons: Sure.

Michael Grant: For some reason, he was in town and we booked him and I thought, this is going to be a whole lot of fun. Well, I walked into the green room and there he was, and I shook hands, said hi, Michael Grant, big fan, that kind of thing. It was just lump like. We thought this would be -- this is a politics show, so we bring on Paulson, interview was the longest interview in my life. And he just was given maybe three-word answers.

Ted Simons: He was being pat Paulson.

Michael Grant: Well, in a grindingly, even for Pat, slow way. But it occurred to me, I'd read he bought a vineyard in Napa, so I thought, maybe I can -- because we're only about three minutes into this, and we've scheduled it for 10 or 12, and I'm dying here. So I said, hey, did you just pick up a vineyard in Napa? That just -- that unleashed him.

Ted Simons: There you go. At least you had a way to get out of it. My way with Charlton Heston was- thank you for joining us.
Michael Grant: But not a lot.
Ted Simons: Yeah
Ted Simons: Gotta ask you, why did you leave?

Michael Grant: Oh, you know, I felt like I'd been driving between at that time Phoenix and Tempe for 25 years, five days a week, you know - enough! Certainly the show was great, I still enjoyed doing it, but I thought, you know, at some point in time I'm going to need to exit and what the heck, might as well be now. There wasn't a whole lot of -- there was a lot of agonizing on my part because I enjoyed doing the show. But I just thought, you know, at some point you're going to have to bring the curtain down. So it was two or three months after the 25 years.

Ted Simons: And a way to do it gracefully as well.

Michael Grant: Well, yeah. I hope it was that too.

Ted Simons: Do you miss it?

Michael Grant: I do, from time to time. I watch you, I watch other people. I look at it and I say, I probably would have -
Ted Simons: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Throw the shoe at the TV a couple times. It's good to see you.

Michael Grant: you do a great job.

Ted Simons: Thank you, sir. To follow you is a difficult task and we're doing our best, but it's good to have you back on the show.

Michael Grant: Same here. Take care.

Michael Grant:Hosted Horizon for its First 25 Years;

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