A seasoned cameraman, editor and producer who loves to surf Oceanside waves is set to retire after committing himself to his passions and serving as KOCT Community Television executive director for 28 years, and employee for 31 years.
Executive Director Tom Reeser will retire this October. He has led the Public, Educational, and Government Access (PEG) station through three decades of technology advancements, growth and community service.
Reeser began working for KOCT in 1987. He said he was in the right place at the right time, when his own production company was not making enough money to pay the bills and the station had an opening.
“I discovered Oceanside though surfing,” Reeser said. “When I heard I would get paid to cover a surf contest (between top surfers) I though this is too good to be true.”
Reeser worked under the direction of station founder Bob Bowditch for three years, than took the helm as the station’s first executive director in 1990, after Bowditch passed.
Plans were already in the works for the PEG station to move into a new studio. The nonprofit TV station relocated to its present address on Industry Street.
Reeser said at the 10 year mark in his career it dawned on him that he had led the station longer than his mentor, Bowditch.
“It was my baby at that point,” Reeser said.
A milestone Reeser led the station to achieve is the implementation of evolved broadcasting equipment. He said early shoots of City Council meetings required setting cameras up on tripods, and diminishing as much green from people’s faces as possible. Graphics were made on an 8-bit Commodore 64 computer.
Today there are cameras and audio feeds built into city hall that can be controlled from an onsite production booth. Meetings are broadcasts live and graphics are cued up.
Reeser said high fidelity equipment has elevated productions, and allowed station staff and student volunteers to work with top industry tools. Many former KOCT employees and volunteers have gone on to achieve successful careers in television and media.
Another milestone Reeser saw the station through was negotiations for a $1.2 million media franchise. The capital allowed the station to hire employees and purchase equipment. In its heyday KOCT produced 300 programs a year, and expanded to its largest facility footprint of 7,500 square feet.
Reeser credits the station’s success to its board of directors and employees.
Over the years KOCT has introduced the community to local election candidates, and documented significant events such as the construction of Oceanside Harbor and building of the Civic Center.
“We do what no one else does, it’s important to the viewers and the voters,” Reeser said.
Reeser said he strives to instill in his employees the importance of telling local news stories that impact people’s daily lives the most.
The station produces a variety of programs that range from covering local issues, to nonprofits efforts, and cultural events.
“Where else can nonprofits get five minutes of information out there about their salad luncheon,” Reeser said.
KOCT accomplishments have not come without hard work and long production hours. Reeser said job demands include deadlines, politics and budget.
“It’s been a challenging journey,” Reeser said.
The next step for Reeser upon his retirement is to get back behind the camera to shoot, edit and produce passion projects. He said he is also looking forward to spending more time with family, and more time in the water.
KOCT will begin its search for the next executive director this summer, and Reeser will be part of the interview team.