News Center Maine anchor Pat Callaghan retiring after 43 years

Nov. 16—Pat Callaghan, whose 43-year career in Maine TV news included witnessing the space shuttle Challenger disaster, traveling to Northern Ireland to report on former Maine Sen. George Mitchell's work as a peace negotiator and sleeping in President George H.W. Bush's hotel room, is retiring.

His last day on the air as an anchor at News Center Maine will be Dec. 9.

Colleagues and people he covered said this week that Callaghan, 66, brought intellectual curiosity, professionalism, an incredible memory and a quick wit to the job. Serious and even-keeled while reporting, he avoided the happy talk and false emotion of some national TV anchors, but could crack up co-workers with jokes, quips and songs.

"I have always been impressed with Pat's even-handed and analytical approach to political coverage, which made sure that viewers had a clear understanding of the facts," said William S. Cohen, the former U.S. senator from Maine and U.S. secretary of defense, who first met Callaghan in 1979. "Pat took his work seriously but did not take himself seriously, which is almost always a formula for success and happiness."

Off-camera, Callaghan is known to friends and co-workers as kind of a "walking trivia game," said Cindy Williams, his co-anchor from 1989 until her retirement last year. She and others said Callaghan has an encyclopedic knowledge of a wide range of topics he's become interested in over the years, from the space program and political history to sports and pop music.

Some personal news... After more than four decades with @newscentermaine I will be retiring early next month. I'll admit it's a bit hard for me to process! My thanks to everyone here and across Maine who have made this such a rewarding experience! https://t.co/Gs65Pwzasn

— Pat Callaghan (@PatCallaghan6) November 16, 2022

His record collection numbers more than 1,000 in his South Portland basement, which co-workers say looks like a museum. He has three bookcase shelves each of just Beach Boys and Beatles albums. His political memorabilia collection includes an empty sardine can used by Republican Charles Cragin during his unsuccessful run for governor of Maine against Democrat Joseph Brennan in 1982. The empty can's label said it contained all of Brennan's good ideas.

"He's like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Maine news and politics. He's always quoting words to songs and his album collection would blow your mind," said Williams. "He's someone who can be so thoughtful and poignant but also crack you up. I always said I'd want him to do my eulogy, because he can make people laugh and cry."

Retired News Center Maine anchor and reporter Bill Green recalled singing and joking around with Callaghan when both worked at WLBZ in Bangor. At one point, they memorized every line of the early '80s hit "Rapper's Delight."

Callaghan grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, and saw what being a TV journalist was like up close, thanks to his father. John Callaghan worked for WNAC TV in Boston, covering both news and sports. The senior Callaghan covered the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins during some glory years for each team, and also traveled to Ireland to cover President John F. Kennedy's trip there in 1963. He went back again later that year to report on the Irish people's reaction to Kennedy's assassination.

Callaghan grew up reading several newspapers and knew how much his father loved his job, so he decided to pursue broadcast journalism himself. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in history and English, he worked for New Hampshire Public Television before landing a job with TV station WLBZ in Bangor in 1979. He worked there until transferring to sister station WCSH in Portland — now known as News Center Maine — in 1983. He became co-anchor of the station's main evening newscasts in 1989 and is currently anchoring weekdays at noon, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

CHALLENGER TRAGEDY

In 1986, Callaghan went to Cape Canaveral in Florida to report a "feel good story" about the launch of the Challenger space shuttle, which included New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe among its passengers. But just a minute into the flight, the shuttle exploded and broke apart, killing all seven people aboard. Callaghan was on air for about a half hour after the explosion, before exactly what happened was known, trying to keep viewers up to date with very little information to go on. So he used his knowledge of the space program — something he'd been interested in since childhood — to talk about its history, including other accidents and fatalities.

During the 1988 presidential election, Bush, a longtime Kennebunkport summer resident, was running against Democrat Michael Dukakis. There was talk in Maine about the fact that the only home Bush owned was in Maine, though he was officially declared a resident of Texas. His legal residence was listed as a hotel room in Houston. Callaghan thought it would be interesting to see where Bush spent his time in Houston, so he found out the room was available when Bush was not there and booked it. He stayed overnight and reported what he saw. He said he slept "quite comfortably, as I recall."

"It was like a two-room suite. It was nice but nothing really special," said Callaghan. "I tried to figure out what movies (Bush and his wife, Barbara) liked to watch on Cinemax, but I couldn't."

Callaghan's anchor spot will be filled by Brian Yocono, a Maine native returning home. Yocono was most recently an anchor at WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, where he worked since 2014, but also worked at News Center Maine from about 2006-11.

Callaghan said he's decided to retire mainly because "43 years is a long time to do anything" and because he and his wife, Karen, would like time to travel. He wants to stay active and joked about maybe opening his own radio station with all his records, but has no definite plans yet.

"I think I'll miss being plugged in right at the source of the information," said Callaghan. "And I'll miss the people. It's a special group, smart and funny, serious about work but not serious about themselves. And they're covering the news at a very difficult time."