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Tom Kirk Calls it a Career

A staple in Abington, Kirk's 'Abington News and Views' goes dark.

 

Whenever there was something going down in Abington, it was a good bet that there would be a guy at the scene wearing khakis, a black baseball cap and carrying a black video camera with a microphone in his belt.

That guy, Glenside resident Tom Kirk, is retiring; his weekly TV program “Abington News and Views,” aired its last episode late last month.

Over the years, the program featured mostly upbeat, “feature-ry” local news stories. It also featured a slew of guests, ranging from politicians to sports icons. One of the unique aspects of the show was that Abington residents got some face time.

“I had a lot of fun. It was all about good news, and I’m very proud of that,” Kirk said, while sitting in his Keswick Avenue studio. “We’ve interviewed a lot of people, and we actually gave a lot of Abington residents 15 minutes of fame — they were either hosts for the show, news readers or reporters.

“Sometimes they reached out to me,” he continued, “and a lot of them were lawyers, which surprised me … or maybe it didn’t. We accommodated a lot of folks and we tried to keep it very local.”

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Kirk, who was born in Scotland, moved to the States in 1960 “as a young lad,” (his words) and moved to the Abington area in 1965. Prior to shooting video he worked as an executive for a Fortune 500 company — until he saw a plume of smoke out of his window.

“When I first bought a video camera, a home video camera, I filmed a major fire at a local gas station and I contacted the local news media — Channels 3, 6 and 10,” Kirk said.

Channels 3 and 10 said “thanks but no thanks,” as they didn’t accept footage from non-union videographers, but Channel 6 asked him to stop by its City Avenue headquarters. 

“An intern at [Channel] 6, who was really on the ball, asked me if I would bring the footage in so they could take a look at it,” Kirk said. “She looked at it, and they looked at it, and they were thrilled — there were major flames and smoke, it was the lead story for two days.”

That fire at the no-longer-around Atlantic gas station in the 600 block of Easton Road landed Kirk some work, covering events in the Abington area. He said he did that for a while until the news outlet started calling him for things happening in the middle of the night. Channel 6 asked him to shoot video of a man who barricaded himself in a building in West Chester at 2 a.m. 

He stopped for a second, and had a revelation.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I’m doing this for them, people in Abington would surely like to have news stories and TV stories about what’s going on here,’” Kirk said. “Even myself, when I was sitting there watching television and reading the paper, if news came on about Abington Township, my head would look right away at the television because it was something that I knew about. I didn’t really care what happened in West Chester or Philadelphia.”

All great things start in a basement or a garage or something.

He got together with a friend of his, former State Rep. Bud Hannings, also of Glenside, and started shooting a TV show in Hannings’ basement; Kirk said he had several politicians on the show as well as local celebrities. He shot the show in the basement for about two years, and shot weddings and bar mitzvahs in the meantime, and the show morphed into what was “Abington News and Views.”

“In 1992, the FCC came out with leased access for cable TV.  I talked to Bud about doing a TV show and we went up to Comcast in Willow Grove to talk to them,” Kirk said. “Comcast had to provide independent producers airtime on certain channels and [Comcast Willow Grove] had no idea about the new rules and regulations. I literally handed them the rules.”

During his run, Kirk said he interviewed a slew of politicians ranging from the governor to every candidate for Abington Commissioner in the past 10 years. And he’s learned over the years that politicians are very superstitious — perhaps even more so than baseball players.  He said he would always attempt to get politicians to do a plug for his show by saying, “If you want to be guaranteed a win, you’ll say, ‘You’re watching Abington News and Views …’” Most of the candidates played along, but Kirk does remember one specific instance in which he did not get a plug.

He was covering a Democratic rally at the Keswick Theatre several years ago. Following the rally, he was walking behind one of the party’s “rising stars” — a younger guy from Illinois. Kirk thought about approaching the man, but decided against it.

“Abington News and Views” has always been a commercial operation, and Kirk has always worked by himself, with the help of his wife. Kirk got local businesses to advertise with him. He said he gave businesses a chance to break into the realm of TV advertising inexpensively.

“We gave everyone a shot,” he said.

Well, someone else will have to give residents and local businesses a shot at being on TV. Kirk said he’s had fun airing “Abington News and Views,” and added that its run of 10 years is incredibly long for a television program, but said it was time to go. 

Kirk said he’ll probably still find time to shoot video, and do some editing — it’s not something that you just stop — but he said he’s probably going to take some time to do some traveling and to do some volunteer work in the area. And yes, some of that volunteer work will include teaching others how to shoot video.

Joe Rooney August 18, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Tom: You are a great guy, a gentleman and an real asset to our community. I am sorry to read this article and wish you all the best. Thanks for everything and good luck. Your friend, Joe Rooney
riannemeroff August 18, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Tom: remember the words of the wise man that advises that you want to wear-out and not rust-out so carefully consider your options for your next career. It was a pleasure getting to know you and work with you. You are an icon in local Abington activities and I sure hope we continue to see you on the go!! Regards and The Best, Rian Nemeroff
Peggy Myers August 18, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Tom, as I read about your retirement, I am happy for you but sad for all of us. You truly did do it all and your show really was the "good news". I am excited to see what comes next for you because when one is as talented as you are.... they never stand still for very long. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful shows you gave us but I suspect the best is yet to come.
Mary Meister Miss Southeastern PA August 18, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Tom, I echo Peggy's comments and want to thank you on behalf of all our young ladies who have been delighted to meet you when they served as local titleholders for Miss Southeastern PA and the Miss America Organization. Your genuine interest and professionalism always made them feel very special.....words can not express our appreciate for your "service" here in our hometown! Please keep in touch with us via email and Facebook and let us know how we can support your future endeavors.....much happiness and health, and all good things to you, Tom!
John Gallagher August 18, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Tom, Abington and Glenside are better places as a result of your having worked and lived here. And hopefully you will continue to live here. I wish you a healthy, happy and long retirement when you can do those things you never had time for because of your long working hours. Keep in touch. John Gallagher
George Barnhart August 18, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Your public service, openness to all Abington events and political views has been a service that defined democracy and public service. Thank you and best of luck in future projects. George Barnhart
Marc Lombardi August 19, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I will always be grateful to Tom (and his wife Karen) for giving me my first major television role on Off The Record. Thank you for allowing the people of Abington to be represented on local TV. Thanks for all of the work you've done & enjoy your retirement!
Joanne Ayer August 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Tom, Thank you for all that you have done for Abington Township and for all of the many political candidates that you have promoted during the many years with News and Views. You have been such and asset to our community and you will be sincerely missed. You are a true professional who is greatly admired and respected. Tom, the best of luck as you take another path in life. Joanne Ayer
Carol DiJoseph August 20, 2012 at 12:38 AM
So,Tom, you're retiring. Now what? Where are you going to stash that big camera, that 1000 watt light, and all that curiosity that kept you going? Where are you going to store all those memories of happy and sad community events, anxious politicians trying to impress, and late-night breaking news stories? Lots to ponder as you lounge about in Glenside reveling in your retirement. You have documented Abington current events with enthusiasm and professionalism. We are going to miss you and that light you shone on all things Abington.
Paul E Aloe August 20, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Paul Aloe 11:42 Sunday nite. Tom,it wont be the same not to see you, talk to you..You're too young to retire. Have a heathy and happy retirement.
Mark Penecale August 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM
I just wanted to thank you for the smiles you brought to faces of the boys and girls at Roslyn Park every time you showed up for a game. I don't know if the smiles were bigger on the kid's or parent's faces. Please know that the kids never forget their time on TV. I wish you nothing but the best.....
Marc Lombardi August 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I also think that a few Patch readers may want to thank Tom for retiring and bringing my reign of terror on television to an end.
John A. Livingood August 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Tom, Many thanks for all you did for Abington Township. I recall the tremendous boost that you gave to the Abington Township Police and Fire Memorial when we were working on that project. The best part about what you did was that you covered the "good news" that the big boys didn't bother with. That was always appreciated because there are a lot of good things going on in this community. Thanks for everything. JohnL
Mark Carver August 23, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Tom Thank you for all that you did in the area. Thank you again for covering my car show America First and the Toys For Tots Train Show and all other Marine Corps League Activities. Also showing the movie short my wife did. Good luck my friend to what ever the future holds for you. Mark Carver

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