The People Behind Your News: Wess Moore
In the sports world, much is made about athletes who are dubbed “triple threats.” In the NFL, there are few better examples than the late Sammy Baugh, who famously could pass, run and kick. In basketball, there are the pass-dribble-shoot trifectas like LeBron James and Luka Doncic in the modern-day. And, of course, one of the greatest players to ever kick a soccer ball, Lionel Messi, is a maestro of all trades. If one were to concoct a list of Arkansas triple threats, it would probably be led by the likes of Joe Johnson and Darren McFadden for his days in the “Wild Hog” formation. But in media? Well, there’s no more obvious answer than Wess Moore. He’s co-host of The Zone on 103.7 the Buzz by day, sports director at KLRT-FOX16 by night, and a quintessential family man all the time, as a husband of nearly 20 years and a father to two daughters.
But just as happy and blessed as he feels to be where he is today, and for as notorious as his name, face and voice is in the local sports scene, the path he’s walked would probably look completely foreign to his teenage self. A boy whose seasons were determined by the sport played — be it football, baseball, golf or basketball — and who had aspirations to follow in the footsteps of the many hoopers that made up his family tree. His grandmother’s side of the family included a towering group of men, many of whom took their basketball careers with them to college at places like Louisiana Tech University, Lamar University and Tyler Junior College. When he got a little older, one of his cousins went to play for Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, Texas, Moore’s hometown, which is just south of Tyler.
“I would go to all of his games,” Moore says. “So, I always grew up wanting to be like them and play college basketball and be a basketball player.”
Life has a funny way of hedging hopes and dreams, though. In the summer leading into his senior year of high school, Moore played pick-up basketball with a few of the players at Lon Morris, some of whom went on to play for the University of Texas.
“They were really, really good,” Moore remembers. “[I was] getting dunked on and dominated, and I knew I wasn’t going to be an NBA player. That was kind of my slap in the face that I didn’t have a professional future. The college offered me a scholarship after my senior year, but I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, and I needed to probably start figuring out what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’ and graduated from college.”
On his first day at Lon Morris, his counselor (unwitting of his existential epiphany on the pick-up court) asked him for an answer to that question. What Moore had come up with to that point was pretty scattershot — an architect, a dentist or television news.
“She said, ‘Well, that’s funny because the news director for the local station was just in my office and said that if I had anybody interested, send them on out, and I’ll put them to work,’” Moore recalls. “So, I went home, gave the guy a call, he gave me a job, and I started as an 18-year-old working for the local TV station as like a cameraman, editor, teleprompter operator — just behind-the-scenes work. I did that for the two years I was at Lon Morris Junior College and realized I love TV news and that was the career path I wanted to take.”
After two years at Lon Morris, Moore took his talents to San Marcos and Texas State University because of its reputation for having a great department and curriculum for budding broadcasters. His headstart at junior college and his work on the ground — which sometimes took a form akin to “trial by fire” — left him just as prepared as anyone else, if not more so. Contrasted against his setback on the court three summers prior, Moore was the one dunking and dominating now; he was in his element. There were plenty of times at Texas State when he knew more about the television equipment than even some of the teacher’s assistants, advising them and his classmates through troubleshooting with simple remedies like, “unscrew the top, and this wheel right here is clogged — all you’ve got to is kind of wind it up a couple of times,” and so on. His time spent at work left him well-equipped for the back end of the news; college provided experience in front of the camera as an anchor and reporter.
Moore’s first gig out of college was as a news reporter in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1994. Shortly after, he ventured south to be a reporter in a larger market for KTAL-NBC in Shreveport, Louisiana, and would soon earn a promotion to anchor the morning and weekend news for the station. But a career move wasn’t the only thing in store for Moore in the Bayou State. In 1998, his morning show hired a new producer, fresh out of college and a native of the city: Alyson Courtney. Residents of Central Arkansas may recognize her well as the morning news anchor for KATV-Channel 7, but at the time, she was a little “green in the business,” as she’s said in the past. And she didn’t particularly like her new boss, the blue-eyed, matter-of-fact son of Texas: Moore.
“I went home to friends and family and said, ‘I don’t know if I can work for this guy,’” Courtney told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2015. Once again, the ironies of life continued to spindle for Moore. Because, though she may have said those things about him back then, that quote comes from a Valentine’s Day article titled “Lasting love in Little Rock,” for the two would eventually hit it off romantically and wed in 2002.
“When you do that morning shift, it’s just you and a couple of people at the station, and you become friends,” Moore says. “Over time, our friendship just really, really developed.”
He still remembers their first official date — Dec. 14, which also happens to be his sister’s birthday. And with the benefit of a little amative hindsight, he now admits that her first impression might have been warranted.
“I may have been a little hard on her,” he says behind a laugh, before adding that there were some instances where he “could have been a little bit nicer.”
The pair quickly became a package deal and would then move to Moore’s home state to work at a local station in Victoria, Texas, where he would be the main news anchor at 6 and 10 p.m. for the next three years. He was a decade into his career at this point, working beats and behind desks that were — save for a few opportunities here and there — absent of his first love. Having his lifelong love by his side helped, but he couldn’t quite shake that itch to get into sports. The problem, however, is that sports news is a very difficult niche to break into. Moore recalls some advice that he received at the dawn of his career: Most men in the news want to do sports, but there are usually only two sports jobs available at each station. There are 10 to 20 general news jobs, so it’s usually easier to chart an upward trajectory in the industry with that route.
For 10 years, the news was his lane. Then came that move back to Texas, where high school football is connate to religion. Every Friday night, his station would devote a huge portion of the program to the sport, and Moore was all over it.
“They knew I loved sports, so they would send me out to the game of the week; I would report live, do the highlights and do a live shot every Friday night at 10 o’clock.”
One Saturday morning, a consultant for the station came to town and met with Moore. The consultant told him, “Look, you’re really good at doing news. But when you did sports last night, a different side of you came out. You were shining. … I’m not trying to encourage you to leave here, because I’m here as a consultant for the station, but when you do decide to leave, I would advise you to put together a news tape and a sports tape — send it out and see what happens.”
When Moore’s contract neared its end, that’s exactly what he did. To his excitement, he got a lot of attention for the latter, including from a station in Little Rock: KTHV-Channel 11. The gravy was that Courtney, now his wife, was also offered a job at THV11 as a reporter. It was a “no brainer” in their eyes, and the tandem joined the network in 2003, with Moore as the weekend sports anchor.
Arkansas would become much more than just another stop for each of them. In 2005, their first child, Brooklyn, was born. That, mixed with how fondly the pair had come to feel about living in Little Rock, made the Natural State feel like a place that they could call home for the long haul. Just a couple of years later, they welcomed their second daughter, Berkeley, into the world. If there were any doubts left, she surely erased them. Arkansas is where they’d stay and raise their daughters.
“We love Little Rock … it’s a great market, and it’s the perfect location for us; my family’s four and a half hours away in east Texas, and Shreveport’s three hours away from here,” Moore says. “So we can still jump in the car and see our families.”
By 2012, Moore had stepped away from the television screen for sports radio. That deviation of his career actually has roots dating back to 2003, when he had a side gig on AM radio called Mayhem in the AM. The station was later sold, and the new owners changed the format, but his bug for microphones and headsets didn’t dissolve with the show. At THV11, he ran a recurring subsidiary show called The Hog Zone, which KARN would later pick up to air on 920 AM the Sports Animal. Moore’s radio show directly preceded the Shawn & Wally Show, which was hosted by Shawn Arnell and Wally Hall. Ladder rungs in radio just kept appearing for Moore; he’d hoist himself up, the ownership would change or another opportunity would come, and he’d latch onto another. When he left THV11 to pursue radio full time, he figured that was the end of his television career. He loved radio for its long-form nature and the freedom it provided and had no intentions or inclinations elsewhere.
Then FOX16 called him in 2013. They were in the market for a sports director, and he was at the top of the list of candidates.
“‘We really want you to come on board,’” he still remembers the words quite vividly. “It was just perfect timing.”
Moore took the job, slating him as the sports lead for the network and tabbing him with sports segments for the 5:30 and 9 p.m. news shows. But he wouldn’t give up his radio side, going on to host a mid-afternoon FM show for KKSP out of Bryant, which had rebranded itself in 2013 to “93.3 The Source,” and then to “93.3 The Jock.”
Following the trend he had grown accustomed to (and now laughs about), though, KKSP’s ownership then changed, and in 2015 it went through another rebranding, this time to contemporary Christian music, and renamed itself “93.3 The Fish.”
You’ll get no complaints from Moore for all of the radio hopping, however. The sometimes chaotic ladder ultimately led him to his current side hustle in radio — co-host of 103.7 the Buzz’s The Zone with Justin Acri. Which was fitting, considering Moore was hand-selected by Acri to fill the shoes of previous co-host Pat Bradley when the former Razorback basketball player moved back to his hometown of Boston in 2018, because Bradley cut his teeth in radio at 93.3 with former Razorback football player Clint Stoerner.
“I didn’t have to worry about the station being sold, the format being changed,” Moore says of joining The Buzz. “It brought along some stability, and I just absolutely loved it. It’s been just the perfect fit for the last two and a half years.”
The obvious question to beg at Moore — who, to reiterate, is the sports director for FOX16 and a co-host of one of the state’s most popular weekday radio shows at its most recognized sports station, who also volunteers in the audio/video room at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church every Sunday, all while being married to someone also in media with whom he’s raising two daughters — is how? Has he found a way to cheat the mere 24 hours the rest of us get in a day? Not exactly, but sort of.
“I am a routine guy,” Moore says, before explaining that routine in a way that sounds far too easy.
His wife, who left THV11 for KATV in 2011, typically wakes up at around 2 a.m. to prep for her morning show, Daybreak. Moore is up by 6:30 a.m. to get the girls breakfast and ready for school. After dropping them off (sometimes being joined by his wife if she gets home early enough), he gets in at least a 30-minute gym workout from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. Then it’s back home to clean up and get ready for work — which is the Buzz from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and straight to the FOX16 headquarters afterward where he begins the second part of his workday. He handles the sports segment for the 5:30 p.m. news show, goes home to eat dinner with his family, and then heads back to HQ for the 9 p.m. news.
Such a lifestyle has meant making sacrifices from time to time, decisions that came naturally and easily for Moore. Easily because he loves his family more than anything; naturally because he learned a lot about that from his father, Mavis Moore Jr., who passed away from a heart attack in February.
“I love telling the story that I grew up a sports fan and loving sports and playing sports, and he was an outdoorsman,” Moore says. “He loved to hunt and fish, and he took me hunting and fishing all the time. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. … Unless the fish are schooling and you’re catching them one after another, that wasn’t fun for me.
“Once he saw my love for golf, he sacrificed for me hunting and fishing. He basically put up the guns and boats and went golfing with me every weekend — me, and my grandfather, and my godfather and my dad would go golfing every Saturday and Sunday at our little nine-hole course. To me, that was a great legacy — that my dad sacrificed what he loved so that he could be with me doing something that I loved. … He was a great father, and that’s what he’s passed down to me.”
Approaching his first Father’s Day without his own dad, Moore is even more dedicated to living his life without regrets and with the ones he cares about most. The priority of Moore’s life is his girls — his wife, Courtney, and their two daughters, Brooklyn and Berkeley. In one final toast of irony, the very weekend tradition that he developed with his father, brought about by sacrifice, has now been cut out of his routine via the same selfless act. Although, for both men, sacrifice might be too strong a word. It’s love.
“I don’t want to get up on a Saturday and Sunday and say, ‘Hey, I’ll see y’all in five hours,’” Moore says. “I want to be there on the weekends, whether it’s going to see a play that the girls are in, or some kind of performance, or just hanging out or grilling — that’s our time, family time on the weekends.”
And while lots of men often daydream about playing catch — or hunting and fishing — with a son one day, Moore pays such stereotypes no mind and has fully embraced life as a girl dad. Whether it’s their aforementioned theater performances or simply participating in a color-coordinated dress-up party to help his family pass the time during the pandemic, he’s there (and probably having just as much fun as his girls are at every turn.)
One thing is for certain — Moore is living his life to the fullest, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves that life more than he does. Just as his father passed the torch on that legacy to him, so too is Moore to his daughters. And then some.
“I love what I do,” he says. “I feel truly blessed, and I’m very lucky.”
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