Rick Karle's Facebook takeover: 'The world is tough. People like good news' –

Rick Karle is writing. Probably right now, in fact.

The longtime Birmingham media personality, who announced he will leave NBC’s WVTM 13 in December, writes several stories a day and shares them online so literally thousands of people can like, love, share and even complain as they so choose, once he puts it out into the world.

Karle, co-host of WVTM 13 morning news in Birmingham, announced he will exit the NBC station after his final appearance on Friday, Dec. 8. A winner of 25 regional Emmy Awards and honoree as a Silver Circle member in 2023, Karle was recognized by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame with a Mel Allen Media Award, which honors media members who have made a lifetime contribution to sports through their work.

Karle began his TV career in 1980. He moved to Birmingham in 1989 and spent most of his career covering sports. In 2019, he joined WVTM 13 and served as a morning news co-anchor alongside co-anchor Carla Wade, meteorologist Stephanie Walker and traffic anchor Sarah Killian.

But the Birmingham television veteran, who said he loves being on air, has found an audience in the digital world, sharing multiple stories per day, most of them human interest pieces that tug on the heartstrings of Alabama-born or Alabama-connected readers obsessed with college football and looking for a little good in a cynical world.

So why leave television now? “Local TV, like a lot of media platforms, is a grind. It’s tough. It’s also a grind after 43 years. And it is very much a grind when you’re about to turn 66,” Karle told “I’m looking towards the future as far as my overall mindset and health. If I signed another two or three-year deal we’re pushing 69.”

He said while the mornings are “tough,” the decision wasn’t easy because he loves working at WVTM 13 with his colleagues Wade, Walker and Killian. But Karle said he’s considering things long-term with his life, not just his career.

“I think there comes a time when you’ve got to look at the big picture and think what’s best for your health and your life and everything else,” he said. “My kids are out of college. I accomplished a lot in my local career as far as awards and achievements that I’ve wanted to receive. So maybe it’s time to sleep until 7 or 8 a.m. and maybe see what’s out there.”

Karle’s television career began in Hanover, New Hampshire, shortly after he finished college. He remembers the station, WNNE in northern New England, on the bottom floor of a Holiday Inn with a coffee tables and a couple of chairs. “From the get-go, I just liked performing,” he said. “My parents were always very funny and outgoing, just thought of it as a way to vent and to entertain. And then as I matured, it also became a way for me to tell other people’s stories.”

Karle covers a wide gamut of topics, but he often zeroes in on a universal truth for Alabama and the rest of the South: Sports. This is fitting, given Karle’s multiple decades of covering them in Alabama. He’ll write about current Alabama football players like Jalen Milroe, or former Bama stars and current NFL players like Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones and Bryce Young. He’ll share moments of sportsmanship in high school sports. And they are seen and shared by thousands at a time in need of some good news.

Karle connects with people, especially on Facebook. The numbers do not lie.

A congratulatory post about Alabama kicker Will Reichard and his wife reflecting on the twilight of his college career drew nearly 4,000 likes. An anecdote about a Hewitt-Trussville student’s tragic injury and miraculous recovery has 2,000 responses. A South Carolina man with Down syndrome and his love for the Crimson Tide received more than 3,000. The story of a 16-year-old fan from Minnesota, paralyzed during a high school football game nearly a year ago, meeting Nick Saban has nearly 7,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments. News that announcer Eli Gold would call the Iron Bowl after sitting out road games to continue his recovery from cancer earned more than 8,000 likes and nearly 1,000 comments. This is the norm.

Karle cites Fox Sports reporter (formerly of ESPN) Tom Rinaldi as an influence for his human interest stories that tap into the emotions of fans through inspirational and heartwarming vignettes speaking to universal themes shared by everyday people.

“I like to get inside of people’s lives — not obtrusively, certainly — but to let people know their stories,” Karle said. “Everybody has a story. You’ve heard that. It’s a cliche, but it’s also true. That’s my philosophy in writing, too. I’ve always had a great time being on television and creating. It gives you a chance to think outside the box and do things that an ordinary, so-called more conservative news anchor would not do.”

HIs career has let him meet high achievers in the sports world, even enjoying an on-air fishing trip with Nick Saban. Karle has covered The Masters, the World Series, several Super Bowls, college football national championship games, Wimbledon, Talladega races and more. “It’s been good to me, for sure.”

He always had a Facebook page where he posts about himself, including cool assignments like covering Alabama’s national title trip to Pasadena. But in the mid-2010s, he began exploring the platform’s potential for telling other people’s stories. “I noticed on Facebook that a lot of people post about themselves, and I think that’s fine. But I think there’s a need for people on Facebook — or social media or journalism or newspapers or whatever — to tell their stories instead of my story,” Karle said.

He’ll still share things about himself online, but the bulk of his posts focus on other people he doesn’t even know. His WVTV-13 colleagues encouraged him to write online, assuring him they’d put it on their own site or even translate these anecdotes to television. He’s always enjoyed telling people’s stories on television, but the more Karle wrote, the greater the response he got, because people needed it.

“The world is tough out there,” Karle said. “People like good news. And I find that people really are attracted to a good heartwarming story. So I’ve gotten as much satisfaction out of writing these stories, that I hope that the people who I’ve written about have gotten out of me writing about them. In a way, it’s their little time to shine. It’s a nice feeling for me to do it for them, too, when they see the reaction they get. It kind of makes me feel good, too.”

Rick Karle

Rick Karle (above) is a longtime Birmingham area television broadcaster who has also found life online via Facebook and other social media platforms to tell human interest stories. (Courtesy of Rick Karle)Rick Karle

Karle gets his stories a few different ways. They often just come to him, with readers approaching him to share. He’ll also go get them, sometimes reading a story from another outlet while looking to go a little deeper if it didn’t paint a full picture. But now his follower base is such that they’re almost easy to find. Karle’s philosophy is to see a good story for what it is and then find an even deeper hook. He might learn about a subject, call a family member to talk, or they’ll send him a photograph and he will parse through the details of the image for a new perspective.

“If there’s a kid, an 8-year-old fighting leukemia at Children’s [Hospital]…if his mom sends me a picture and he’s got a Crimson Tide blanket on the picture, I will call them and say tell me about this blanket. What does that blanket mean to you?” Karle said. “So I kind of try to think outside the box and try to write about something on that picture that can relate to the story. I think getting a good story is one thing. Finding that hook or the inside story of the inside story is what makes a story successful, if that makes any sense.”

He typically writes them during the day following his morning news shift, which airs 4-7 a.m. After recording some cut-ins during “The Today Show,” he spends about three hours at his desk to work on the stories if the rest of his work day permits. But when his day ends at 1 p.m., he’ll go home, open the laptop, eat lunch and then pound on the keyboard around 2 p.m.. He’ll write through the afternoon, sometimes late at night.

“It’s a process for me,” Karle said. “It’s not something that gets in my way too much. My kids are gone. I’m not taking them to a soccer game anymore. My wife’s an attorney. She works late hours. She’s often in court until 7 o’clock. So I’m going home to the empty nester house. Instead of looking at my dog and two cats, I’ll open up my laptop and I’ll write a story. Takes me about 45 minutes or an hour. I write them anywhere I can and when I can, without driving myself crazy and doing too much.”

Karle has been married to Jill, an attorney, for 39 years. They have a son Noah, 25, a Vanderbilt University graduate currently serving in the Peace Corps in Mongolia. Their daughter Mia, 22, is a New York University graduate with degrees in film production and environmental science, now living in Los Angeles “chasing the dream in Hollywood.”

The response to the Facebook stories is overwhelmingly positive. By now, he must have millions of likes, comments and shares across multiple platforms. He doesn’t have time to read it all, but it means a lot.

“Some of the comments I get are just heartwarming,” Karle said. “When they write you and say you kinda made my day or I appreciate what you do, that’s a good feeling. That’s what makes me want to write more. That’s what spurs me on to write more.”

But it’s social media, so the response isn’t always universally sugary sweet, no matter how positive the spin he puts on his stories, with some online critics calling the posts saccharine or even hokey. Karle said although he will see negative comments once in a while, his four decades of on-air experience have hardened his armor.

“That’s part of being in the public eye,” he said. “When you’re a sports anchor in Alabama and you’re covering the Tide and the Tigers, you’re going to get nasty stuff from either side, and great compliments from both sides, but that’s just part of it. You’ve got to have thick skin.”

Karle knows how to start a conversation. But positive or negative, he tries to respond the same way.

“If you kill them with kindness, write back and say ‘I appreciate your point, thanks for writing or calling in,’ … usually they end up being your good buddy because you responded to them in a classy manner,” he said. “We all have different opinions politically and socially, but if you’re just nice and show some class, I think people appreciate that.”

Karle’s pieces ask readers to look deeper within stories, either focusing on people or moments that deserve more consideration or might provide greater insight into their personalities or just a general positive worldview. He often says “heartwarming.” It’s clear Karle aims to spread positivity through these posts.

“As you get older, you get more mature, you have your own kids, you see your parents pass away after your grandparents pass away. You’re in the media, you see all this tragedy all over. Look at the world now, halfway around the world what’s going on and people struggling. It’s just really sad,” he said. “My parents were always glass half-full people. Always very positive, ‘You can do it, Rick.’ Outwork the next guy. Work longer hours. Be kind to people. I really found that it’s such a basic thing to hear that all the time.

“My philosophy is you can let people know that maybe a nice story could lift up their day. …I t’s a basic thing, but I think it’s a needed thing, too. Especially in the news, you see so much is negative. Boy, it’s nice to bring some positivity to the world, too. I think everybody could use it regardless of what you do in life.”


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