As a kid growing up in Manassas, Virginia, this Eyewitness newscaster spent a lot of his free time on a basketball court or out on the fairway. In fact, young Mike Hoss was such a talented golfer that he won an athletic scholarship to James Madison University, located in the rolling Virginia hills of Harrisonburg.
Entering college was just the first step in a career that's seen him spend years behind the sports desk, and most recently, the big jump into the news anchor role.
By the time he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications in 1984, Mike had already gotten his first crack at sports anchoring - on the University's very first 15-minute cable access newscast. "'JMU Today,'" he remembered with a grin, "where we rolled paper towels hand-written with a magic marker as our studio teleprompter."
And like many aspiring broadcasters, Mike had also completed the obligatory round of college internships. "I did a lot of them in radio," he recalled, including a DJ stint on a late night jazz show.
On a career path followed by many of his successful television colleagues, Mike got his first real job in small market radio. "It's brutal when you first get started in this business," he emphasized. "I lived out of my car during the day for sixth months, crashing at a friend's apartment just to sleep," as he pulled a weekend shift at a Charlottesville all news and sports AM/FM combo.
But the low-paying experience was enough to get Mike his break into local television, when he returned to Harrisonburg to work as a news reporter for ABC affiliate WHSU.
While his goal had always been focused on the sports side of the business, the cub journalist also knew that the odds were not on his side. "There were a whole lot more general assignment reporting positions - as opposed to sports - at small TV stations," Mike explained. "Usually the 'sports department' was just one guy."
After bouncing back over to Charlottesville, where he again worked as "a one man news band," - shooting, writing, editing and packaging stories for the market's NBC affiliate, Mike finally landed his first full-time sports position. "I went out to Lawton, Oklahoma as the weekend sports anchor for ABC affiliate KSWO," he recounted. "And I was there for exactly 367 days."
Located in the flat Midwestern plains near a big Army base, Lawton was characterized by Mike as a town of "tornadoes and tarantulas." Tarantulas? "Oh, we used to kill them in the newsroom," he casually recalled. "And you'd always see them crawling along the highway. They were so big they looked like turtles crossing the road."
As for the tornadoes, "We were under a watch every single day I was there. And I'm not exaggerating - it was just part of the normal routine to also be on the lookout for a tornado."
No wonder when Mike got an offer from the NBC affiliate in Lubbock, Texas, he grabbed it. More than just his ticket out of Lawton, it was a high-profile opportunity to serve as KCBD-TV's Sports Director, anchoring the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. weeknight newscasts on the market's number one television station.
Home to Texas Tech, Lubbock was a huge college sports town - and Mike would finally get his shot at also hosting his first coach's show. However, "The Spike Dykes Show," which centered around Tech's colorful football coach, demanded a grueling solo production schedule to make its Sunday morning post-game turnaround.
"Texas Tech played on Saturday nights with a 7 p.m. kick-off," Mike explained. "So after the game, I just stayed all night at the station, pulling and editing highlights to be ready for an 8 a.m. taping with the coach." Hard-core Tech fans across the state tuned into catch "Spike and Mike," as the show was repeated on cable systems throughout Texas.
While the hours were long in Lubbock, Mike was "having a blast" in this desert outpost where folks took their sports very seriously. But a twist of fate would lead him to another market famous for its outspoken fans, when he noticed a resume tape on his weekend man's desk... that had been politely returned by another television station.
That station was New Orleans' legendary CBS affiliate WWL-TV, who'd been looking to fill an opening in their award-winning sports department for months after Chris Myers departed for ESPN. "So I sent them my tape," Mike laughed, "and they flew me in for an interview during the first weekend of Mardi Gras. I had never been to New Orleans, and I stayed in the French Quarter... it was a pretty wild introduction."
Initially hired as a sports reporter in 1989, Mike quickly earned a coveted anchor slot - first as host on WWL-TV's "Fourth Down on Four," the station's highly successful Sunday evening highlights show, then doubling as the sports anchor for Channel Four's top-rated weekend newscasts.
"You know, sports are simply woven into the fabric of this city," Mike observed.
"The fans here cross all barriers of gender, age and race. I get just as many calls from grandmothers who have strong opinions about the Saints."
"Along with the Saints, LSU and Tulane, this market gives me the chance to report on a visiting Final Four Tournament... or sometimes a Super Bowl. It's really a small town with big town events."
After more than a decade of filing sports stories at WWL-TV, Mike has also witnessed the station's expanding commitment to aggressive prep coverage. "The high school scene has a much bigger impact now," he emphasized, "with efforts like 'Fourth Down Friday.'"
His favorite kind of reporting allows him to focus on what he calls "athletes as people."
"Those are probably the most interesting, and certainly the most challenging, pieces that I've done," he reflected. "Like that profile on high school wrestler Jason Culotta." After Jason's older brother, a two-time heavyweight champ, was killed in a car crash, the young Brother Martin student dedicated his life to winning the state championship in honor of his brother's memory.
"Jason kept a prayer taped inside of his head gear," Mike recalled. "And he went undefeated to bring home the state title. It was an incredible story of triumph over tragedy."
In 2001, Mike made the switch back to his roots in the newsroom, becoming a weekend news anchor. After nearly three years honing his craft, he took over as the 10 pm weekday news anchor. He has also anchored the 5 pm news, alongside local icon Angela Hill and served as the Eyewitness Newsroom's managing editor, a role which gives him an even greater hand in story selection, assignments and special coverage.
Mike now brings his talents to the Channel 4 audience even earlier in the day, as anchor of the Eyewitness News Early Edition at 4:30 a.m. He also anchors the Eyewitness Morning News at 5 a.m. and contributes to the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. newscast as well, with Eric Paulsen and Sally-Ann Roberts. Mike hopes that the morning schedule will allow additional family time with wife Betty-Ann and daughters Allison and Katie.
And when they're home, spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
"My wife and I are avid cooks," Mike explained. The couple has appeared together on the "Eyewitness Morning News" to fill in for resident chef Frank Davis, and they've also covered radio shifts for local food critic Tom Fitzmorris.
This Louisiana transplant's very favorite dish happens to be a creole classic. "I absolutely love gumbo," Mike revealed.
"Especially my version with duck and andouille."