Galen Culver & 5,000 Things That Make Our State Great
If you are unfamiliar with the title, “Is This a Great State or What?” then you probably haven’t lived in Oklahoma very long. Three times a week, Galen Culver of News Channel 4 features an interesting person or place in Oklahoma. After 31 years, it is possibly the longest-running news feature in the state. In fact, Galen will soon film his 5,000th episode!
“Oklahoma is the best feature territory there is,” Galen said. “Everyone has a story. You have an entire population who moved here just a few generations ago and 39 tribes who are making new lives for themselves. It’s an amazing gift when someone opens up their door to tell me their story.”
Galen Gets His Chance
Galen started his journalism career in Fort Smith, AR. As a newbie at a small station, he did every job possible, but his favorite was photography. It was newscaster, Kevin Ogle, who noticed Galen’s talent and recommended Galen for Oklahoma’s KTVY station (presently KFOR-TV). In April 1989, Galen landed the job, unaware that he would carve himself a niche as a feature reporter who would continue through multiple managers and station owners.
“During the Gulf War, I went to Saudi Arabia, and the management liked my coverage. I think that elevated my credentials. In 1991, the news director developed a feature idea named “Is This a Great State or What?” Journalist Dino Lalli was their first choice, but he passed on the project, and someone said, ‘Why don’t you give Galen a shot at it?’”
Although Galen remembers filming the first episode about a cowboy poet from Midwest City, the other 5,000 can be a bit of a blur. A few episodes stand out, however: traversing Oklahoma’s longest highway from Tom, OK to Boise City; interviewing Tom Love about the first Love’s Country Store in Watonga; visiting with sage rancher Dave Wingo while frog giggin’ in Holdenville; filming a story in Minco about a beekeeper (whose son, Lucas Ross, later became a TV personality). But none can top the story of the bull.
“I was covering the International Finals Rodeo and mentioned to an acquaintance that I could never get close-up video from behind the fence. So, he let me in the gate, and the first bull out of the chute rammed me,” Galen said. “It was dumb to let my passion for the perfect shot take over common sense–but the footage was amazing! That bull ran right at the camera.”
Finding the Stories
Finding 5,000 stories might sound daunting, but they just keep surfacing for Galen. He gets an occasional email from the newsroom, and he searches social media, but most of his story ideas occur organically while he’s visiting with someone about another story.
“About the time we get to the second cup of coffee, someone says, ‘Hey, I know a guy….’” Galen said. “Then, I have the freedom to drive somewhere I’ve never been, to film a story no one else has done before. I can’t think of a better job. I’m so fortunate that people are willing to reveal their unique histories and talents to me. I hope all these stories live on and on.”
Galen can be contacted at Galen.Culver@kfor.com.