Yesterday, Texarkana lost Casey Roberts. He was an important figure in the landscape of Texarkana’s mass media. His passing was sudden and has left an emptiness in those who had the privilege of calling him a friend.
Doris Roberts posted this on Facebook:
“It is with sadness that I inform you that Casey Zappa Roberts passed away on 9-27-19 about 10 am after a short bought with cancer. Before he passed, he chose these words to share with you, his family, colleagues and friends.”
“Do not grieve for me. It was a fabulous ride. I have been blessed with a great family, dear friends and a career that I not only loved, but constantly fed me experiences that totally enriched my soul. Don’t worry about me, take care of yourselves, pay it forward, love and be happy. I will see you on the other side. All you need is love.”
To the end, Casey was still offering practical advice.
I had the privilege of working with Casey on several occasions throughout my time at TAMUT. His complete knowledge of media production and professional demeanor transformed many students from simply being interested in how live-television worked to media professionals earning a living in this ever-changing industry.
I wanted to share a feature I wrote about Mr. Roberts that was posted last year in TAMUT’s digital paper, the Eagle Eye.
Our Campus Media Specialist
A&M Texarkana’s Multi-Media Specialist offers practical advice acquired from a lifetime of experience.
Casey Roberts’ sixth-grade teacher wrote a note to his mother at the bottom of his final report card saying that he would have a career in TV or radio.
The teacher was correct. Inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall Of Fame in 2002, Roberts’s experience in multi-media production spans over 45 years.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Roberts said. He started off at the age of 17 as a disk jockey for a small south Texas radio station, where he soon became the program director. The company that owned the radio station also had several cable TV stations, one of which his father was the general manager of here in Texarkana.
Roberts began producing local public access programs as well as cable ads.
“I was responsible for getting commercials on the air,” Roberts said. He also pioneered a system, now the norm, called “local commercial insertion,” where local cable commercials are seamlessly integrated with national ones.
Roberts’ passion and diligence were noticed. He would spend the next 35 years honing his craft in the markets of Louisville, Kentucky, and Las Vegas, Nevada, holding a range of positions.
One of Roberts’ favorite moments was filming an interview with Muhammad Ali, after his defeat to Larry Holmes in Louisville, 1980.
“He came down to our little studio and spent an hour and a half with us, then invited us to a party that evening, where we got to hang out with him,” Roberts said.
“I like to tell people, I shot for Playboy and Disney channels in the same day,” Roberts reflected.
His journey came full circle, returning to Texarkana in 2005 to help out family. As fortune would have it A&M Texarkana, at the old location, had an open position to teach mass media production and a studio that needed to be rebuilt. Roberts has been employed with A&M Texarkana for the last 12 years.
“What I taught was the difference in being in a high-school TV class and real professional broadcast standards,” Roberts explained, “The rules of television are the same, and it’s about production values and technical standards.”
Lessons from the popular mass media class, 417 Advanced Television Production, focusing on making documentaries.
“Documentaries require a more polished production; Learning how to shoot, interviewing people, doing research, doing reenactments covers many important aspects,” Roberts assures.
His most practical advice for students is: preplanning, knowing what you want to do and maintaining high technical standards.
Suggesting that students often have really good ideas in their head, but loose the intended message because they have not tried to see how their message might appear to someone first viewing the idea.
“Always a good idea to bounce things off other people,” Roberts said.
There are no current video production classes offered at A&M Texarkana because the lack of a TV studio “made it difficult to keep classes going,” Roberts allowed.
“I have two jobs here now,” Roberts stated, “Production, which is near and dear to my heart, and facilitating event technology.”
Eagle Hall hosts several big events throughout the year. He makes sure that everything technical is working and familiarizes speakers with the equipment, assuring any hiccups will be dealt with promptly, putting speakers at ease.
Roberts shares his thoughts on the necessity for media production classes at A&M Texarkana.
“All the things that go into a real comprehensive university are important. I think news/journalism and the media-arts are essential for a liberal-arts education, hopefully we get to that point. With the introduction of athletics, there is a need to cover athletes and broadcast games, giving students a hands-on opportunity to work within professional standards and guidelines. I hope we get TV multi-media back in the curriculum. There are ways to do it, even in conjunction with the community college where the studio sits.” Roberts concluding with, “It would add a lot to the atmosphere to the campus with students more involved.”