In 1979, Brad Watson walked into the WFAA-TV newsroom in downtown Dallas and debuted the deep voice that would inform North Texans and question public officials for the next 34 years.
Come mid-April, Watson won't walk into that newsroom –– at least, not each day. On Monday, the 59-year-old veteran journalist announced his resignation from News 8 to become the communications director for Luminant, the state's largest electric power generator.
"Brad Watson is a Dallas institution, he's part of the fabric here at WFAA," said news director Carolyn Mungo, who took the newsroom's top job in February 2012. "He has done just a tremendous job upholding the standards of journalism."
Watson, who turns 60 in November, began his career in Iowa, working at an ABC affiliate there after college. Three years after taking that job, Watson got his resume tape in front of a pair of eyes belonging to longtime WFAA news director Marty Haag, who plucked the 25-year-old Watson up and brought him to the country's fifth largest media market.
"I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when [news director] Marty Haag called me and had seen my tape and said, 'Can you come down for an interview?' and then offered me a job," Watson said Monday. "There was no question I would take it. It was everything I could've hoped for."
Watson said his original plan was to go into radio journalism. He learned the profession parallel to some of the nation's most defining news stories –– namely, he said, the Watergate scandal, which helped give birth to his dedication to pursue reporting hard news.
"The press was in a prominent role then," he said. "I think anyone in journalism then was supercharged about getting out there and being a tough reporter, an investigative reporter."
Those stories would come to define Watson's career. He speaks of witnessing the human suffering wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
He remembers reporting in the wake of an F-4 tornado that tore through Vernon, Texas just four months after starting at WFAA in 1979.
He recalls reporting from the terminal after Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed on approach to D/FW Airport, resulting in the deaths of 137 people in 1985.
Watson has covered the city of Dallas and served as the station's chief political reporter, covering everything from local races to hosting statewide debates.
But the smaller stories still speak volumes, he said. He recalls his recent coverage of why Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed by Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before his ultimate capture at the Texas Theatre, did not have a historical marker at the site of his death.
Watson's reporting helped spur a call to rectify the omission and, in November, the Texas Historical Commission granted Tippit that honor, placing the marker near the intersection of 10th and Patton streets.
He called it "personally gratifying, just that after seeing a news story people got behind the notion that there ought to be a historical marker for Officer Tippit."
"That touched me, that I made a difference," Watson added.
Taking the public relations job isn't a total about-face, Watson said. He said he looks at it much like he looks at the role of journalism –– a public service. This opportunity found him, and he told Mungo, WFAA's news director, of his decision on Monday morning.
"I've always enjoyed stories about infrastructure, power plants, water's a big issue, the (electric) grid that powers our state," he said. "It will be an exciting challenge to be at a really great company at Luminant, to be part of how the state will meet its needs. The future is here, people are coming here every day to Texas … the electric power needs are going to be very important."
Watson's last day will be near April 15. He joins Craig Civale, Debbie Denmon, Chris Hawes, Casey Norton and Cynthia Vega as News 8 reporters who have recently left for jobs in the public relations field.
"It's important, I think, to just overlay the principals I've used here, particularly in political coverage, which is to be fair and accurate and respectful," Watson said of his new position. "I think applying those, just as I have here in my reporting, is important to represent points of view and positions that will need to be out there for people to evaluate."