Community Service

Tinkle, Hailey Receive Top Media Awards

Story by Bud Grimes

Serving their communities has served veteran broadcasters Paul Tinkle (’76) and Terry Hailey (’71) well during their 100-plus combined years in the radio business. Both were honored for their respective accomplishments this summer when Tinkle was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame and Hailey received the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award in Murfreesboro. The presentations came during the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Annual Conference, held Aug. 6-7.

Tinkle is president and general manager of Thunderbolt Broadcasting in Martin, and his hall of fame induction attracted a contingent of well-wishers, including his 86-year-old mother, Nancy, his wife, Diane, Thunderbolt Broadcasting staff members and UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver. The induction program noted that he began his broadcasting career at age nine, was hired as station janitor at age 15 and then built a career that earned recognitions such as the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award and Weakley Countian of the Year. In 2005, WCMT-AM earned the coveted National Association of Broadcasters Crystal Radio Award for community service.

Paul Tinkle

Tinkle recalled his professional and personal relationship with the late Tennessee Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, whose home was in Dresden. “I bring up his name today because Governor McWherter did more for journalism in Tennessee than any other elected person,” he said.  He also recognized his longtime colleague and friend Dr. Robert Nanney, former Weakley County Press editor and now professor and chair of the UT Martin Department of Communications.

Although news competitors at the time, Tinkle and Nanney maintain a lasting friendship. Nanney said that recognition of journalism professionals such as Tinkle is important in a changing media world. “I think it’s important to remember those who paved the way,” he said. “Those in my opinion who did the business of journalism in the right way, who really were trying to inform the public in a very diligent, a very passionate, but also in a very fair and balanced way, which in my view is sorely lacking these days.”


“We were competitors, and maybe fierce competitors, but we’ve always been friends, so you know that helps a lot.” – Paul Tinkle


Jordan Tinkle (’07), who is part of the Nashville afternoon sports talk show 3HL for 104.5 The Zone, was in the hall of fame induction audience and noted his father’s commitment to local programming and news. “It’s all about being local and all about community, and I think that’s important, and you know you don’t see a lot of people my age these days doing this,” Tinkle said, who is known as “JT” to his listeners. “But I think what you hear on the radio in Martin is the news. It’s the truth, and that’s what you’re going to get whether you like it or not. And they’re always going to bring you the truth every day on WCMT.”

Hailey, a former Tennessee Association of Broadcasters president, was the longtime president and general manager for the WENK/WTPR family of stations in Union City. He also taught UT Martin speech classes for almost 30 years and has served as Union City mayor since 1988. He is now an on-air personality and programming adviser for Thunderbolt Broadcasting and his friend and former competitor, Paul Tinkle.

Terry Hailey

“We were competitors, and maybe fierce competitors, but we’ve always been friends, so you know that helps a lot,” he said of his relationship with Tinkle. “And competition is good. You know that. It’s always good. It makes you a little sharper, and he’s been a good competitor for a long time.”

As for his longevity, 50-plus years in the business haven’t dampened his enthusiasm for broadcasting. “You know, I’ve just loved every minute of it,” he said. “I loved it when I first started, and I still enjoy doing what I’m doing now. The industry, as you know, has changed so much over the years, but it’s still fun to me.”

Hailey also believes that serving the local community is key to successful local radio, and this ingredient has been present both at Thunderbolt Broadcasting and when Hailey worked at his former stations. “And his (Tinkle’s) stations really – public service and community service – that’s what they are. That’s what they stand for,” he said. “Radio is so different now with the large corporations owning so many things and people get away from the localism, but not Paul. And that’s what’s kept him successful, and I hope that’s what made our stations successful as well.”

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