KAIT is a regional television station licensed in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Its broadcast area covers northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. The station’s studios are located in the northern section of Jonesboro, with a transmitter in Egypt (Craighead County). KAIT calls itself “Virtual and VHF digital channel 8, an ABC/NBC/CW+-affiliated television station.”
KAIT began on July 15, 1963, as a venture of George Hernreich, a businessman from Fort Smith (Sebastian County) who founded the first television stations in both Fort Smith and Jonesboro. At first, KAIT was an independent station, but in 1965, it became affiliated with the ABC-TV nationwide television network. KAIT began carrying programming from the NBC television network in 2015, and in 2018, KAIT also brought programming from The CW to the Jonesboro market. KAIT was the only television station to serve Jonesboro until KTEJ signed on the air in May 1976.
Locally produced regional newscasts, sports, and weather are among the most-watched features of KAIT’s programming. The station presents more than twenty-four hours of locally produced newscasts each week, including more than four hours of news daily Monday through Friday, and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays, terming itself “Region 8 News.” KAIT’s news coverage area primarily includes the northeastern Arkansas counties of Craighead, Clay, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Randolph, and Sharp, as well as several counties in southeastern Missouri, especially the bootheel.
KAIT has gone through a number of ownership changes through the years. In 1984, the Hernreich family sold the station to Channel Communications. That company sold KAIT to Cosmos Broadcasting in 1986, with Cosmos being the broadcasting arm of the South Carolina–based Liberty Corporation insurer. After Liberty exited from the insurance business in 2000, Cosmos stations were brought directly under the Liberty banner. Subsequently, in 2005, Raycom Media obtained KAIT through its purchase of Liberty. In 2019, Gray Television, based in Atlanta, completed an agreement with Raycom to merge their assets in the broadcasting field. This resulted in Gray’s entry into Arkansas due to KAIT’s presence within their portfolio.
One of the best-known figures at KAIT in the 1970s and 1980s was news anchor and investigative reporter Jack Hill. While at KAIT, Hill produced a number of investigative pieces that not only won national recognition but also almost cost him his life in at least one instance when he investigated a local sheriff who was later imprisoned. Hill, who became a household name in northeastern Arkansas, won the duPont-Columbia Award (often called the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting) in 1981 for his documentary The Economics of Water. Hill also received two Emmy Award nominations, a certificate of merit from the American Bar Association, and a citation from the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, among other honors.
Another of KAIT’s most popular signature personalities through the years has been Diana Davis, who joined the station as co-anchor of the 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. newscasts in 1989. Since that time, she has worked as a reporter and anchored the news in addition to her work with the “Gr8 Acts of Kindness” segments. By 2021, Davis was presenting Region 8 News at Midday, and then anchoring the newscasts at 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. The Emmy-winning Davis has been recognized by the Arkansas Associated Press, American Cancer Society, Arkansas Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and Jonesboro Classroom Teachers Association. One of her most memorable on-air pieces was when she and a photographer surprised would-be thieves attempting to steal from a charity’s donation bin. She also became known for exposing red tape that was impeding the adoption program in Arkansas, leading to officials from the Arkansas Department of Human Services being subject to an inquiry by lawmakers. Her daughter Destiny Quinn followed in Davis’s footsteps for a while by joining the KAIT news team, creating a mother/daughter duo that is rare in television news.
As KAIT-TV serves the widespread agricultural areas in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri, it provides extensive coverage of both weather forecasts and agriculture-related issues and events.
For additional information:
Jones, Gary William. “The Story… Behind the Stories: KAIT/A-State News Film Collection—Crowdsourcing Vernacular Metadata.” PhD diss., Arkansas State University, 2020.
KAIT8. https://www.kait8.com/ (accessed December 21, 2021).
Garland County Historical Society
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