For 33 years, Fil Alvarado has been one of KDFW/Channel 4’s workhorse reporters, a familiar face — and voice — to DFW TV viewers who prefers being in the field to being behind an anchor desk.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Don’t you want to be an anchor?’,” he says during a phone interview. “ ‘Or do something else at the station?’ But being a street reporter is what I’ve always enjoyed doing. You meet somebody new every day. I guess I’ve met thousands of people after all these years, and I’ve done thousands of stories.
“Some were pretty basic news stories, like ‘the City Council decided to do this today and this is how it’s going to affect taxpayers’,” he continues. “But then there are the stories that you get to tell about people. And that’s really what I enjoy the most.”
On Jan. 3, the storytelling at Fox 4 will come to an end, as Alvarado retires from the station, where he’s been since long before Fox 4 was Fox 4. Or even Fox, for that matter; when he began, KDFW was a CBS affiliate. Besides anchor Clarice Tinsley, who recently celebrated her 40th anniversary at the station, and anchor-reporter Richard Ray, whose bio says he started in 1983, Alvarado appears to be the longest-running personality at the station.
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It’s hard to decide whether to ask him why he’s retiring now — or why, and how, he’s managed to stick around so long in one place.
“That is kind of rare, I guess, in broadcasting or in the media in general,” Alvarado says. “I don’t think you stay 33 years anywhere if you don’t like what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. And certainly, you have to enjoy the people you work with. And those three reasons are why I’ve stayed so long.”
But Alvarado has been part of DFW broadcast media even longer than he’s been at KDFW. According to his station bio, when he arrived in DFW, his first stop was at WBAP/820 AM, then based in Arlington, and then moved to Dallas-based KAAM and then to KRLD/1080 AM, at the time an all-news station.
“That job took me out of the studio and into the field,” he says in the self-written bio. “The station acquired a television station while I was there and that gave me a foothold on the path I’d been trying to take since the day I left college.”
He’d had media jobs elsewhere, but when he started at KDFW, he was known as “the radio guy that’s now in TV.” Now he’s the TV guy who just happened to have done radio.
“You don’t look at the paths you’re taking at the time, because they’re still taking you places,” says Alvarado, whose path also included selling newspapers on the street as a youth in the Texas Panhandle, working as a writer and photographer at his high-school newspaper, studying theater at Dallas Theater Center, returning to journalism in college and working in radio in Midland. “You don’t think about the journey so much, but now that I’m retiring, you kind of see where all these different roads that you’ve traveled kind of were leading to the same path.”
And his goal was always to get into TV, which combined his love of journalism and photography.
“As a matter of fact, I got hired by a TV station in Odessa, and the general manager at the [Midland] radio station kind of talked me out of it,” he says. “But when I got hired by WBAP, I really chose the market size for television, deciding that that would take care of itself. And when I ended up at KRLD, I was there for a long time, and I think it kind of helped build my skills as a reporter.”
Despite his long career, Alvarado says that his most recent stories are often the ones he considers his favorites.
“I just did one [this month] on a Santa and how he reacted to a blind child who came to see him,” Alvarado says. ‘I just enjoyed that particular story. But then there are the tragic ones. Not too long ago, that 9-year-old girl, Payton Summons, and her last court battle. Going back a couple of years, the Chris Kyle trial over in Stephenville. We spent about four weeks there. I’ve covered several trials in my career but that was certainly the most high-profile.”
Alvarado doesn’t have any heavy-duty post-retirement plans. “First, we’re just going to just spend some time with family,” he says. “Traveling a little bit in the state, maybe regionally a little bit. ... My wife runs a foundation that helps injured officers, and I’ll help her on that. I’ll probably help her and help in the community any way I can.”
But his plan at first is just to get up, go to his office at home and ease into another routine. He’s not going to write a book, but he does plan to write a few memories down.
Alvarado was among the Press Club of Dallas’ 2016 class of North Texas Legends, journalists who had spent decades working in DFW and North Texas. According to local-media blogger (and Press Club of Dallas member) Ed Bark’s coverage of the event, Alvarado said that he frequently runs into viewers who say they’ve been watching him since they were kids. “I think I’m working on my third generation now,” Bark quoted Alvarado as saying.
“I run into a lot of people who have been watching me since I started on TV, and then their children and their grandkids,” Alvarado says. “But that’s rare. It’s really more like a second generation.”
Alvarado’s bio also references the North Texas town of Alvarado (“Any place where I had a town for a namesake was good enough for me”). Of course, the pronunciation of the town of the town of Alvarado roughly rhymes with “potato,” where the more traditional Spanish pronunciation of Alvarado’s last name is closer to rhyming with “avocado.”
“My first job in North Texas was at WBAP, and I remember my news director saying, ‘Well, I just took another call from somebody saying that you don’t know how to pronounce your name,” he says with a laugh.
Follow Fil Alvarado on Twitter at @FilAlvaradoFox4