Frederick Heckman · 1982
In an age when journalism standards are falling to include the latest Hollywood gossip, Fred Heckman has refused to change.
After serving as news director at WIBC-AM (1070) in Indianapolis for 32 years, Heckman left the station in the summer of 1993 over disputes with station management. The station’s attempts to increase the amount of “happy news” on the air was one cause of those disputes.
“There’s too much giving people what they want to know, not what they need to know,” Heckman said in a December 1993 interview with the Indianapolis Star. “I really could care less about Michael Jackson’s sex life – if there is any.”
Growing up, Heckman moved all over the country with his family in search of work. His father was a construction company purchasing agent, and the business had been hit hard by the Great Depression. By the time he was 16, Heckman had lived in 29 different homes.
Heckman met and married his wife Barbara while attending college. Before he could receive his degree, however, he joined the U.S. Navy as a radioman specializing in cryptography in World War II and the Korean War.
When he returned to the U.S., he worked at radio stations in Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia and Washington, D.C. In 1957, he finally came to WIBC in Indianapolis.
The news standards Heckman still stands by can be traced back to his early days at the station. Reporters did their own stories instead of simply reading wire reports or newspaper articles over the air (a common practice in radio today).
As a news director, Heckman sought diversity, both in his reporters and the views they covered. He only required his reporters to spend three hours of their day on routine daily coverage; the rest of the time was for reporters to find their own stories.
“We often put on the air stories that I didn’t like and disagreed with, personally,” Heckman said in his 1993 interview. “It’s a better way to more truly reflect the community.”