Local TV/Radio Personality, Terry Meiners, Talks Life on the Airwaves
Meiners began to hone his comedic talents at the dinner table, as his parents would have each of the children go around the table and tell a joke or a quick story about their day to earn their dessert.
“It was interesting because as a spread of kids 20 years apart from top to bottom, you learned a lot more about your siblings, especially those you were so far in age from,” Meiners says. “In a subtle way, we were all being taught to stand out a little bit, because otherwise you would get lost in the mob of the family.”
While his siblings went on to more traditional careers — over half own their own companies, including his brother Tim who owned J-Town Hardware, five are in accounting and a few are school teachers —Meiners was drawn to the world of television and radio. He saw how hard his father worked as a truck driver for Kroger and wanted to take a different path.
“I saw a guy on TV wearing a tie delivering the news, and I thought, ‘That’s for me! I could do that,’” Meiners says.
He began to study broadcasters and emcees as they interviewed their famous guests and became enthralled with the process.
“I was always paying attention to what the interviewer was saying and how they were reacting,” Meiners says. “People will open up to you, and you, as the interviewer, need to dig deeper. Listening is the most important element of all.”
Meiners had the chance to get his hands on camera equipment and gain on-air experience in the television studio at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, where he graduated from in 1975, which led him to pursue a degree in journalism at the University of Kentucky.
While at UK, Meiners got a job at a Lexington rock station, but his duties were limited to technical needs and mostly involved changing out music.
“Eventually someone left and they needed someone to go on air, so they asked me,” Meiners says.
After a four-year stint in Lexington, he came back to Louisville, where he’s been ever since.
“In my late twenties, all through my thirties, and even into my forties, I was getting inquiries and offers from other places,” Meiners says, who fielded offers in major cities like Atlanta, Seattle, Phoenix and Boston. “I actually went out to a few places to look but ultimately opted against the jobs I was offered in those other cities.”
Meiners felt he had been compensated fairly in the Louisville market and did not want to uproot his family for a small increase.
“I wanted my kids to be raised in Louisville,” he says. “My kids are 31 and 29 years old now, and we have great lives here in Louisville. I feel great about my choice.”
Meiners has been a staple of the Louisville media scene since 1985, as host of “The Terry Meiners Show” on NewsRadio 840 WHAS. For more than 20 years, he has also appeared on the WHAS-TV morning program “Good Morning Kentuckiana,” with live remotes every Friday.
In the summer of 2011, Meiners teamed up with news anchor Rachel Platt for a new morning show, “Great Day Live!” The pair had already worked together on “Good Morning Kentuckiana” and provided a powerhouse of talent for local morning television.
On top of all that, Meiners also had a stint as host of Rick Pitino’s weekly coach’s show starting in 2001.
While he appreciates the opportunities his job has afforded him, it’s not all fun and games. Between preparing for shows and actually being on air, Meiners days are jam-packed.
A typical day for him begins at 6:30 a.m as he starts to peruse the newsreels. Twitter is often one of his first stops.
“Twitter has been a great asset in these last 10 years because you get everybody’s feed right away,” Meiners says. “It’s the fastest way to find headlines. I follow all of the major news sites, and know right away what happened overnight and what I should be talking about on the radio and TV.”
He takes his dog, Johnny Fever, for a walk and thinks out loud about what his shows will look like that day, sometimes listening to CNN for more news updates. After arriving at the WHAS television studios, Meiners goes over the show information provided by producers and spends at least an hour prepping before he goes live.
“Great Day Live!” Airs from 9-10 a.m. Monday through Friday, and he often has some work to complete after the show wraps. After leaving the station he typically goes home for a bit before heading to the radio studio and doing more preparation. “The Terry Meiners Show” airs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. rounding out his day.
“You talk to six, eight, 12 different people in a day and hear a lot of different stories,” Meiners says. “Your head gets filled with a lot of information every day. At the end of the day, you let the pressure fade away and hopefully retain the good parts of the day.”
On a recent Friday, Meiners interviewed, among others, a pastor with a beef against the Jefferson County Teachers Association, a woman running for district judge and a representative from the health department. He even got a Hepatitis A vaccine on air to bring light to the recent epidemic in greater Louisville.
One of his favorite interviewees is a former First Lady and Democratic party presidential candidate.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people out of the White House before, and I’ve always been really impressed with Hillary Clinton,” Meiners says, who has interviewed her twice. “Both times I had Hillary on, no one was badgering me in advance. The appointment was set up, and when it was time to go she was ready on the line.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Meiners also enjoyed interviewing the late actor and political activist Charlton Heston.
“Heston wrote a thorough life story years ago, and the book was mind-boggling,” Meiners says. “He came into the studio and was fantastic. You could ask him anything and he didn’t put up any walls.”
Louisville native turned superstar actress Jennifer Lawrence is another of Meiner’s favorite people to interview.
“J-Law has been great, she’s the same person I knew when she was 17 years old,” Meiners says of the now 27-year-old star who is the face of “The Hunger Games” blockbusters, as well as countless other films. “Funny, self-deprecating, she’s fantastic.”
Of course, not everyone is as willing or eager to be interviewed.
“There are people who try to push you around, and you have to hold your ground,” Meiners says, noting that politicians will often try to derail the conversation when it is not going their way. “You also have to dance around limitations sometimes, and I don’t like that. I don’t want somebody telling me what I can ask.”
Even with his long list of impressive interviewees already in the books, Meiners has his sights set on some high-profile guests.
“I always had questions for Barack Obama ready in case that interview happened,” Meiners says. “Of course Donald Trump, or any president. They’re the president and I respect that. They’re fascinating. It doesn’t matter if I like or loathe them, they have a story to tell.”
The media is often blamed for biases in reporting, but Meiners works hard to ensure fair and balanced stories that bring the issues to light.
“My job is to let the interview subject empty their bucket and to pull out as much information as I can,” he says. “I don’t shy away from that or let my personal beliefs get in the way.”
Although he lives in St. Matthews now, Meiners spent 14 years in Anchorage, and his kids played for Middletown Baseball growing up.
“I loved living in the Middletown area,” Meiners says. “It was nice and convenient, everything was around you there. We had wonderful neighbors, and I enjoyed the setting. The tree canopy was fantastic.”
An avid golfer, Meiners looks forward to days on the course at Valhalla Golf Club and had a brush with a local celebrity as he was leaving one afternoon that has stuck with him since.
“I left Valhalla one day and pulled through the Wendy’s close by,” Meiners says. “I came around to the window, and Junior Bridgeman was working the drive-thru.”
The former Louisville basketball standout turned business mogul owned a string of Wendy’s restaurants at the time.
“Bridgeman said the best way to run a business is to work every employee’s job so you understand their challenges,” Meiners says. “Here’s a guy with his own jet, and he’s serving me my french fries at Wendy’s because he owns the business and wants to understand the challenge for each employee.
“What a great less to learn,” he adds. “Never be too big to do any of the jobs.”
Now 61-years-old, Meiners often gets asked what’s in store for the future, but for now, he’s enjoying his current gigs and his home life with his wife, Mary and her two young children.
“Mary is a great soul, a strong, positive person who understands my career,” he says. “She understands when we go to Kroger, 20 people are going to stop and tell me something, so she keeps walking so we aren’t in there for hours.”
Meiners has received offers for speaking appearances, spots in locally-filmed movies and other side projects but is content with his radio and television shows for now.
“Everybody has heard all of my opinions about things, get some new voices in there,” he says.
Overall, Meiners enjoys the technology available today in aiding news broadcasts and looks forward to seeing how it continues to evolve in the future.
“There are so many more voices providing content and providing it from different angles,” he says. “Before, you were locked into one nightly newscast. So many other people have influence now. It’s a much fairer space for everybody because more divergent voices are getting heard. I think that makes the world much better.