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Updated 7:00 AM November 23, 2009
 

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Spotlight: Broadcast journalist's career an amazing race

Steve Carmody is used to looking familiar to people he's never met. After a 30-year career in journalism and a stint on reality television, he says it's to be expected.

"For a while I would run into people at airports who recognized me," says Carmody, a general assignment reporter for Michigan Radio. "I thought, 'How do these people know me: as a serious journalist or a reality show contestant?'"
Michigan Radio general assignment reporter Steve Carmody and his wife, Debra, pick up a clue while competing on the CBS reality TV show "The Amazing Race." (Photo courtesy CBS/World Race Productions Productions)

Carmody has worked in journalism all over the country including Oklahoma City, where he reported the biggest story of his life.

April 19, 1995, started out like any normal day with Carmody heading to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to report on a 9 a.m. court hearing.

"Running late, I decided to call and see if the hearing had finished," he says. "Had I continued driving and not made that call, I would have been parking my car at the federal building at the exact moment it exploded, killing 168 people."

For the rest of the day, Carmody wandered from wreckage site to wreckage site while also attempting to find a working phone to call in reports to his own radio station, as well as National Public Radio. Over the next six weeks, the bombing was the only story that Oklahoma City reporters worked on, he recalls.

"The effect this had on the city is something that people outside of the city don't understand," he says. "One truck bomb destroyed the federal building, but then 10 others had to be torn down, and 300 more repaired."

That incident still remains as the most important day in Carmody's career.

"That day was the culmination of all my training," he says. "Being able to calmly explain what happened helped me serve my community best."

Miraculously, one of the few downtown buildings that wasn't destroyed was the Crystal Bridge, an all-glass garden atrium that Carmody and his fiancé, Debra, had just reserved for their wedding. Early in the morning, the atrium opens massive windows to let out heat. Because of this when the bomb detonated, its vibration wasn't trapped within the building, leaving it unscathed. Six months later, the wedding happened on schedule.

Working in journalism for 30 years garners some recognition, but it was Carmody's stint on the CBS reality program "The Amazing Race" that started his fan base.

Carmody and his wife were selected out of thousands of entries to be contestants on the fourth season of the seven-time Emmy-winning show. The race started in Los Angeles, then they rushed to Milan and the Italian Alps, where they faced obstacles like rock climbing and a zip line. Although they were the first team eliminated, the experience was unforgettable, he says.

"In my opinion, there are three different types of people who go on reality shows: people who want fame, people who want money and people who think it would be a lot of fun," he says. "My wife and I didn't think we would win; we just thought it'd be a once-in-a-lifetime fun experience. Maybe that's why all the other competitors were so nice to us."

On the job, Carmody says he fills in the gaps between other reporters' beats, often traveling across the state following leads.

"I may come in and spend 10 hours at my desk, updating Web stories or doing phone interviews, or I could spend the entire day driving around," he says.

"Michigan Radio has a unique mission because we cover the entire lower half of the Lower Peninsula. We tend to think of stories on an issue basis compared to an incident basis. The challenge for me then is finding these stories that speak to a larger audience."

With some life-changing experiences behind him, Carmody now says he enjoys the pace of life in Michigan and the on-the-job satisfaction of "just getting the story right and reporting the news."

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

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