By David Murray, Great Falls Tribune
Broadcast journalism has been good to Conrad native Shane Bishop. His career as a producer for Dateline NBC has allowed him to travel the world, meeting and interviewing people from all walks of life. He’s earned the respect and acclaim of his colleagues, winning an Emmy in 2003 for a story on the abduction and rescue of the Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart and in 2004 for NBC’s coverage of the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004.
A week from now, Bishop will once again be counted among the best and brightest of television journalism. He and the production teams he works with have been nominated for three Emmys for their coverage of the 2011 tornado outbreak that caused 324 deaths and $11 billion in damage across a ravaged U.S. from Alabama to Virginia..
And while he is justifiably proud of what he has archived in nearly 19 years at Dateline NBC, Bishop credits a large portion of his success to good fortune, the support of his family, guidance from a high school English teacher, and the humility and emotional grounding he received growing up in Conrad.
“Conrad was just a great place to grow up,” Bishop said from his home in Medford, Ore. “I think only after you leave, do you realize how wonderful it was to grow up there, and what great teachers you had.”
Bishop had a typical Montana upbringing. His dad worked in soil conservation and his mother was a homemaker. The Bishop family, including Shane, his two sisters and parents, lived in a house across from Conrad High School.
As a teenager Bishop considered a career in medicine. He said the thought of working in television never entered his mind until a high school English teacher took an interest in Bishop and his aptitude for writing.
“I wanted to be a doctor until I got into high school,” Bishop said. “I liked to write, and then found a teacher that I loved – Chuck Powers. “For our senior class project, he took us down to the KFBB television station in Great Falls. We did a newscast on the set and he made me the producer. It kind of opened my eyes a little bit. He helped me understand that I loved to read and write.”
After graduating from high school in 1982, Bishop entered the School of Journalism at the University of Montana.
There, another educator, Joe Durso, chairman of the Radio and Television Department, gave Bishop the confidence to chase his dreams.
“He told me that wherever I wanted to go I could do it,” Bishop recalled of Durso. “He just said, ‘You’re going to do this. You’re really good at it and I’m going to help.’ Once you have somebody who believes in you like that, it’s amazing what you can pull off.”
After his junior year of college, Bishop interned as an anchor/reporter with KPX-TV in Missoula. He continued as a reporter until 1988, but discovered that production work was more to his liking.
“I wasn’t a natural on camera,” Bishop admitted.
After a series of jobs producing television newscasts on the East Coast, in 1990 Bishop landed a job with WCBS-TV in New York City. His desk assignment turned out to be one of the biggest breaks of his career.
“I got a desk pretty much right next to a young news anchor nobody had never heard by the name of Brian Williams,” Bishop said. “Within a couple of years, he was at NBC and he helped me get my foot in the door.”
Bishop was hired as a writer/producer for Dateline NBC in 1994 and has been there ever since.
Before her death in 2009, Bishop’s mother was interviewed for a story about her son’s success as a television producer.
“We’re just plain folks from Conrad,” she told the reporter.
“That was always her attitude,” Bishop said on Friday. “I don’t ever want to lose that sense of wonder or the realization of just how lucky I am to do something lik e this. It’s easy to get jaded and take things for granted. You have to enjoy it while it lasts.”
The 33rd annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards will be held in New York City on Monday.