- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - The clear, competent voice of KSWO’s Jan Stratton has echoed through living rooms in southwest Oklahoma for more than three decades, her words advising and interpreting in times of need, comforting and relieving in times of distress.

Having fulfilled the roles of reporter, anchor, producer and director at different - and sometimes simultaneous - times throughout her career, Stratton planned to sign off for the last time following the 5 p.m. newscast on Jan. 31.

“My children kept asking me, ‘You keep talking about it, when’s the day?’” Stratton said. “So I thought, I’m just going to set a date in my head. I have no idea why Jan. 31 became the date - it just seemed to be the day - so I gave my notice 90 days out and I never looked back.”

Devising a plan and sticking to it - “never looking back,” Stratton calls it - is part of her steadfast ideology. It’s a sentiment that has led her to more than a successful career; it has led her to a fulfilling life.

“It never ever occurred to me to say, ‘I can’t do this,’” Stratton said, reminiscing on her personal and professional experiences. “I always said, ‘Well, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to figure it out.’ You’ve got to keep one foot in front of the other and just do it.”

Stratton had originally interviewed with KSWO in 1980 after learning that the station was looking to expand its news department. With no prior experience in the media, however, she was hired as the public affairs director.

Determination, charisma and the ability to maneuver earned her quick promotions. She transitioned to the news side of things a year later.

“I didn’t know a thing,” she said, recalling her first few months. “I didn’t know how to get it from here to the TV screen. There was nobody to teach me, because the job I had hadn’t been filled for two years. But I learned. I asked question after question after question, and everyone was wonderful and I caught on. It took very little time - within two weeks I think I kind of had it figured out.”

She would grow to master studio tasks and direct the television news for 25 years.

“The average life of a director in TV news is about three years,” she said - she turned over that duty to co-anchor and colleague David Bradley in 2006 - “but most directors just move on to another news directing job and then keep moving. This was my home, though. My husband had a profession here, and honestly I thought being a news director was probably the best job in town. I’m very serious about that. . But it had been a long time. I was tired. It’s a lot of work in a small market. I’m not sure people realize that. It’s hiring, it’s firing, it’s day-to-day operations and making sure all the bases are covered. It’s calls at 3 a.m. that say, ‘A producer didn’t show up, what are we going to do?’”

Stratton, wife of 39 years and mother of six, relived missed proms and postponed holiday meals due to the demanding nature of her job.

“You do give up a lot,” she said. “One of the Christmases I had to work. I didn’t think it was fair for me to tell people they had to work and me not show up, so I worked. We always had dinner at the house, so we had Christmas dinner that year at midnight. It was a little weird, but it was fun.

She continued, smiling, “You just get very - responsible. Yes, there were certain things I missed, but I don’t really regret it. It’s a waste of time to regret. I think I’ve had a great life.

“I got to meet a whole lot of people that I never would’ve met otherwise,” she said, giving her entrance “into another side of the world that I never would’ve been exposed to.”

As her retirement draws closer, more family time is on the forefront of Stratton’s mind.

“It’ll be lovely to visit my kids and my grandchildren, scattered throughout Texas and Connecticut,” Stratton said. “My brother is in New Jersey. My mother is in Virginia. My mom is in her 90s and I try to see her at least once a year. That’s really important to me. Now I won’t be limited on how long I can stay.

“When it’s all said and done, all you have is your family.”

Stratton plans to enjoy many days on the golf course with soon-to-be-retired husband, Comanche County Associate District Judge C. William “Bill” Stratton. His term will expire in January 2015.

“I’m a person who loves to play golf and who loves to visit family and who loves to laugh,” she said. “I intend to do all of that and more when I retire.

“I also love theater, music and the arts. I was involved in theater for a long time and just came back. I got my feet wet again last year in two events and had a great time. I thought, I miss this. Working with first-class musicians and such talent in the community is awesome. I’m going to do more and I’m going to volunteer.”

A well-deserved retirement may be just around the corner, but Stratton is certainly cherishing her last hours at a station that has become a home, with coworkers who have become family.

She leaves having secured a spot in the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and having mentored dozens of thriving journalists.

“I’m going to miss the people,” Stratton said. “I really have fun with the young folks, I really do. . We laugh. They’re funny. They’re irreverent. And many are extremely talented. My best memories are of all the great people who have come through and gone on and done oh-so-well. I see news directors, I see anchors in big markets. It’s just wonderful. It’s one of your kids who has gone on to be a big success. That’s the coolest thing ever.

“I just hope I maintained the integrity and spirit of a good newscast and being a good person. Being a good person, I think that gets you a long way.”

Stratton says she is confident KSWO productions and employees will “sail on just beautifully” while she cheers from the sidelines.

Bradley, who started his career at the station in 1986, said Stratton is nothing less than an icon to those who have had to chance to work beside her.

“If you were going to make a Mount Rushmore of Channel 7,” he said, “Jan Stratton would be one of the four faces. Twenty years from now, people will still come up to me and say, ‘I remember when you and Jan did the news.’

“For so many people she is synonymous with this station, and she’ll continue to be. I’m fortunate to have had the chance to work with her, and I only hope we can continue the legacy she has helped to build of putting together a good news product that people can rely on.”

___

Information from: The Lawton Constitution, http://www.swoknews.com

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