By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Veteran anchorman Terry Smith’s face won’t be as easy to spot after this month, but he hopes his voice will spread far and wide.
After more than 30 years at WTVA, Smith, 57, decided it was time for a new chapter. He already has a business set up, Voice 56 Studio, at 306 N. Spring St.
“I’m going to do voice-over things,” he said. “I’ll be working with clients, doing some commercial work, some industrial work.”
He’ll also be a consultant to help people become better public speakers.
“Communication is a gift, a gift from God,” Smith said. “I feel like businesses could benefit tremendously if people communicated better to customers.”
The career change isn’t a sudden decision, and several factors are at play.
“This is one of the great companies in the business,” he said of WTVA. “I have talked with a lot of people in this business over the years, so I know this is a first-class place.”
But news gathering is demanding, especially in the era of never-ending news cycles.
“It’s 24 hours a day. If you let it, it can eat you alive, because it is just so consuming,” Smith said. “You have all the constant deadlines. When it never ends, you just keep going. Over time, if you’re not careful, it can get the better of you. I think it’s time for me to do something different.”
Personal reasons affected his decision, too. He lost his father five years ago. His mother died in February, followed a month later by his brother.
In addition to his grief, there’s been time to think about his new direction.
“My dad had a beautiful voice,” he said, “and my brother did, as well.”
Smith began developing his ease behind a microphone as a child in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“When I was – I’m guessing – 11 or 12, I would go to my grandparents’ house,” he said, while sitting on the couch at the WTVA studio. “They lived around the corner from us. They had a wooden spoon with a string on it. That was my microphone. My grandmother would sit in that chair and listen as long as I would talk. I just think I enjoyed that, probably because she sat and listened.”
After he got a degree in mass communication from Middle Tennessee State University, he was hired at WTVC in Chattanooga.
Five years later, he moved to WTVA, where he became a regular visitor to Northeast Mississippi living rooms.
“People are willing to let you come into their homes and be a part of their families,” he said. “When they say, ‘Hey, I watched you on TV,’ that’s an honor. They didn’t have to watch the news. They could’ve watched 200 other channels. It’s an honor. It truly is.”
After Aug. 30, it will be someone else’s honor, as Smith follows his new path.
“I may fall on my face,” he said. “That’s OK. You move on. You pick yourself up and move on.”