Gregg Hersholt Segues Into Retirement

Gregg Hersholt sits behind a radio microphone.
Gregg Hersholt, Seattle's Radio News Voice

August 28, 2023
Dale Goodwin (’86 M.A.T.)

Gregg Hersholt (’73) always imagined himself tooling down the highway as a passenger in his listeners’ cars.

The drivers may be shaving or applying makeup, but they have Hersholt’s strong, upbeat and steady voice sharing the ride with them, offering the news on the radio about what’s happening in their world today.

“Just trying to keep things simple and uncomplicated,” says the longtime morning radio news anchor with stops in Spokane, Portland and Seattle.

He signed off at KNWN, formerly KOMO radio in Seattle, on Jan. 13 after a distinguished 50-year career in radio broadcasting. His colleagues shared his studio with him on that last day when Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee offered recorded messages applauding his gift to Pacific Northwest listeners.

I knew of Gregg Hersholt listening to KJRB AM Radio in Spokane back in the mid-1970s. I was a high schooler and his voice was immediately recognizable.

He grew up in Beverly Hills, attended Loyola High School, was the grandson of Hollywood actor Jean Hersholt, for whom the Oscar Humanitarian Award is named, and the nephew of movie actor Leslie Nielsen of “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” fame. Hersholt came to Gonzaga University in 1969 with 12 of his Loyola classmates.

Hersholt worked nearly 40 of his 50 years in radio with three of Seattle’s most widely heralded radio stations – KIRO, KJR and KOMO.

Gregg had just graduated from GU with a degree in communications, cutting his radio teeth on KZAG Radio, “coming to you from the bowels of the COG.” He always envisioned himself being a newspaper reporter.

But KZAG taught him that radio could be a fun career.

“I was the second vice president of the student body association at GU, and I leaned over the second-floor balcony in the COG about 5:30 every evening during dinner and read the announcements of movies, concerts and programs for the next day, and I frequently had to duck as my ‘friends’ hurled the evening’s entrée at me,” says Hersholt, now 71. “I enjoyed that a lot. My friend Don Fitzpatrick (’71) encouraged me to introduce myself to the radio manager at KJRB, the top 40 station in town back then, so I did.

“They were planning to add a news guy who could relate to their audience of teens and young adults. They let me work the first month for free. After graduating, they offered me $650 a month and I thought I was the richest guy in the world,” Hersholt remembers.

He initially worked the 6 p.m. to midnight shift, preparing and reading the news. He worked his way up to the afternoon drive slot, then morning news anchor before earning his job as news director.

His career would take him back and forth from Portland to Seattle for rewarding and sometimes grueling experiences, including being fired a few times.

He spent 26 years as a reporter, afternoon news anchor and then morning news anchor at KIRO in Seattle. But when management decided to pivot from news to talk radio, Hersholt was out and looking for work at age 58.

At long last, a dream job opened up at KOMO radio and Hersholt spent what he calls “the most rewarding 10 years of my career” writing and reading the morning news with his best radio partner, Manda Factor.

“We were always on the same wavelength,” Hersholt says. “Being on live radio, you must have a good instinct with your partner, knowing what to say when. We have great mutual respect for each other.”

He also has great respect for his favorite radio guest, former President Jimmy Carter, “such a humble guy,” Hersholt says.

“I had met him at Expo ’74 when he was governor of Georgia, and I was emceeing a program there. He was so unassuming and down to earth. He wanted to know all about me and my family.

Gregg Hersholt poses with former Unites States President, Jimmy Carter.
Hersholt’s favorite interview was former President Jimmy Carter.
“Then, some 40 years later President Carter came to our studio for an interview. He patiently sat for 20 minutes while I read the news before we had a chance to talk on air. He listened to the news and during breaks complimented me on my work. I reminded him that we had met 40 years earlier. It was surreal.”

Hersholt recalls two of his toughest days on the job, first on 9/11 having to maintain his sanity while talking listeners through what had just happened.

“Then, on March 18, 2014, our TV news helicopter took off from the top of our building and crashed with two co-workers aboard. For six or eight hours we had to broadcast about this tragedy and what these workers meant to us. It was difficult to put our emotions aside,” Hersholt says.

He claims most days were fun and funny, behind the scenes. “But we had to act like adults on the air,” he quips. Much of the news came from television reports, and a big part of his job was translating TV copy into word pictures that listeners could imagine.

All in all, radio was a perfect fit for this gregarious Zag. “Right away it was so much fun for me, I knew I was in the right place,” he says. “Being fired a few times, mostly working for music stations, made me wonder. But finishing with a news station was the perfect end to my career.

“I’m ready to ditch the alarm clock and wake up whenever I want,” Hersholt says. But his nightlife has yet to awaken as around 7 or 8 he’s still ready for bed.

Travel and writing a memoir about growing up in the shadow of his famous grandfather are next on Hersholt’s priority list.

10-4, good buddy.

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