By: Hannah Osborne & Asya McDonald
John Deushane has envisioned his life in broadcasting since his first years in the rural farmlands of central Illinois.
“The last thing in the world I wanted to do was be a farmer,” said Deushane, who grew up in an area where a town of 500 were considered the “city kids.”
The life on the farm offered limited entertainment, Deushane’s days were spent watching one of the three television stations in the area or listening to one of two radio stations based out of Peoria and Chicago.
These hours of broadcast consumption inspired a future as a disk jockey for the young Deushane.
“My whole world was listening and watching, and I loved music,” says Deushane.
He fulfilled this vision of life in radio as a freshman in college, working as a program director among other small radio gigs.
The transition to television broadcasting happened after transferring to Bradley University for his sophomore year of college. During a visit to a local television station as part of a class, Deushane’s career in broadcast television began. In a span of just two weeks, he had left his overnight gig at a radio station and began a job as a floor director at the television station.
“I’ve learned everything on the job, with the aid of great mentors and observing other people,” says Deushane.
Deushane’s career quickly took off.
Before graduating college, he had already worked as a floor director, engineer, director and production manager. By the time he was 30, he was the general manager of a publicly traded company.
“There wasn’t a single time I was ready for any of those jobs,” says Deushane. “I was very blessed I had mentors along the way or people who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. People that pushed me out of my comfort zone, out of the nest.”
Throughout the course of his career, Deushane has had the opportunity to work in several positions and among several teams.
“You quickly have to learn, no matter your position of power, you are never the smartest person in the room,” says Deushane.
He eventually found himself in Georgia, presiding over several stations owned by Granite Broadcasting Corporation. As he stepped into the role of Chief Operating Officer he was required to reside in New York. Reluctant to force his family to pick up and move their lives up north, Deushane made the decision to spend 7 years commuting from Atlanta to New York.
“That was probably the biggest change for me in terms of work,” says Deushane. “I was still in the broadcasting business, but I wasn’t around broadcasters. My touchstone was visiting the local stations and sitting down to work through problems with people and connecting.”
The 2008 recession marked a turning point in Deushane’s career, a point that led him to 11Alive in Atlanta.
“This was like coming home,” said Deushane of the opportunity to become General Manager at 11Alive.
Despite the prospect of another industry potentially allowing Deushane to have retired earlier on in life, he would not trade the time he has spent in broadcasting for any other.
“There are many opportunities that this industry affords someone,” said Deushane.
Something that a career in broadcasting undoubtedly offers a person is a front-row seat to history. One of these opportunities for Deushane was joining former state representative John Lewis on a congressional pilgrimage in which he joined Lewis as he marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
“There are so many emotional things that I never would have had the opportunity to witness without this position.”
An old actor’s trick to relax the vocal cords with warm water led Deushane to find himself spilling a cup of hot water in the lap of Ronald Reagan the night before he won the 1980 presidential election.
“Don’t let your career path be anyone else’s,” says Deushane. “You’re going to spend a lion’s share of your time at work, there are going to be days where it takes a toll. If you can’t see the sunshine on the other side of those inevitable bumps, don’t do it.”
Aside from the meaningful hours Deushane has devoted to the broadcast industry, he has been involved in a few philanthropic organizations as well.
Over the years Deushane has learned to become intentional in deciding what boards he serves on and where he devotes his time. On advice from his pastor, he poses himself with the question, “What breaks your heart?”
“You can spread yourself far too thin,” says Deushane. “So, I followed my heart.”’
Despite not having the ability to serve on every board, Deushane has found alternative ways to support the causes by providing resources.
Moving forward, Deushane plans to spend his time on faith-based initiatives.
As Deushane walked up the hill to the 11Alive studio in his final moments before announcing his retirement he posed for a selfie, sent the photo to his wife and captioned it “Last day of school.”
“After I made the announcement, I was told, ‘You look lighter,’” says Deushane. “I responded, ‘I’m ready, it’s time.’”
John was a longtime member of the GAB Board of Directors and later served as its chairman. He was also recognized as its Broadcaster of the Year in 2016.
In total, Deushane devoted 47 years to local broadcasting, with the last 13 coming in Atlanta with WXIA-TV (11-Alive). Under his leadership, WXIA-TV was recognized with 236 Southeast Emmy Awards, 3 national Emmy Awards, 49 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, 9 national Edward R. Murrow Awards, 1 Peabody Award, 1 duPont-Columbia Award and 6 Georgia Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year recognitions.