After a half-century in broadcasting, Craig O’Neill isn’t tired of the sound of his own voice, it turns out.
Neither are fans of his newscasts on THV11, which announced Monday that the longtime radio personality and TV news anchor is putting off retirement for the second time in about 15 months. Early last year, he had backed off a planned retirement, citing the creative momentum of the KTHV news desk. In 2019, he was nominated for a regional Emmy and picked up an Edward R. Murrow award shortly thereafter. Now O’Neill, in his 51st year of broadcasting, finds he’s still not ready to sign off.
The Arkansas State University graduate, who started his career while still in college, confirmed to Arkansas Business that he’s 69 years old. The announcement of the postponed retirement was made by Channel 11 President and General Manager Marty Schack.
In a news release, O’Neill praised the strong bond at THV11 and hailed the recently announced return of longtime news and weather anchor Tom Brannon. He said the need for quality local journalism has never been clearer.
After a long career in radio, O’Neill switched careers in 2000, becoming KTHV’s sports director. After a few years, he joined the anchor desk, where he remains, alongside Dawn Scott and Marlisa Goldsmith. “Craig’s relentless love for the central Arkansas community continues to shine,” Schack said in a news release. “We’re thrilled to have him on the team for at least another year.”
News Director Shayla Teater, summing up the key to O’Neill’s staying power, joked that it boiled down to “having a good boss!” Seriously, she said, “He just loves what he does. You can’t beat that kind of passion and love for a community.”
Teater, whose father is veteran Little Rock TV news anchor and Arkansas Broadcasters Association Executive Director Doug Krile, said O’Neill inspires his co-workers with his passion for Arkansas, his willingness to still learn and his relentless sense of humor, which won him fans for his on-air pranks as far back as his late-1970s days at KLAZ-FM.
That zany sense of humor helped him become a highly sought-after emcee and host at Arkansas events, and he has led more than 9,000 such gatherings for charities over the decades, helping to raise more than $40 million.
His off-the-air name, Randy Hankins, was considered “too country sounding” when he broke into the business, O’Neill said. An early boss had already paid for promotions for a new DJ named Craig O’Neill, the anchor said in his boisterous baritone. “Whoever he was going to hire was going to be Craig O’Neill,” he said. “Now I get called Randy at home, and by family and old friends. Or lawyers.”