A look back at Cliff Naylor’s legendary career with KFYR-TV

A look back at Cliff Naylor’s legendary career with KFYR-TV
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 9:52 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Cliff Naylor has been a staple in North Dakota television for 46 years. He signed off the air for the last time and retired Friday.

From Glendive to the Vatican, Cliff has told stories of people and places all over the world. His colleague Hope Sisk tells his story of his years in the news industry.

Cliff decide to pursue a career in broadcasting after taking a film course at Shanley High School. The course gave him his first exposure to telling stories.

At the time, students were given Super 8 film cameras to shoot productions. The class inspired him to pursue a job in journalism.

After graduation, he enrolled at Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Minneapolis. The technical college placed 98% of its graduates at radio and TV stations across the country.

He graduated in 1977 and started work at the second smallest television station in America, KXGN-TV in Glendive, Montana. Just a few months after turning 20 years old... Cliff made his on-air debut.

The next year, in August, Cliff was hired by KUMV-TV in Williston.

KUMV had a brand-new TK-76 field camera, one of the first news cameras sold. It had to be connected by a thick cable to a 3/4″ video tape recording deck. The weight of an entire set of gear approached 75 lbs. The price tag for a fully equipped TK-76 came to more than $100,000.

It was a different time for technology and photography, but it was the right time to fall in love.

In 1981, while Cliff was reporting in Williston, he met the new reporter Monica Hannan. Their adventures covering news in Williston would start them off on a long path to continue their careers in journalism, grow their family and mentor many upcoming reporters.

Four years later, after developing his photography and storytelling skills, Cliff moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, as the chief photographer at KMVT-TV.

He returned to North Dakota in 1988 as a general assignment news photographer at KFYR-TV. He was often paired with Farm Director Al Gustin to shoot agriculture stories, seeing many parts of the state for the first time.

That’s how the “Off the Beaten Path” series began.

At first, he says he was hesitant to commit to a weekly project featuring stories on unique and interesting people and places. He didn’t even think there would be enough material to keep the series going for more than a year.

But how wrong he turned out to be. Cliff produced an “Off the Beaten Path” story every week for more than 25 years.

As the “Off the Beaten Path” television series gained traction, the state tourism department contacted Cliff to write a book about his travels so people could use it as a travel guide and visit the same sites in the stories.

The first “Dakota Day Trips” book was printed in 1999, followed by a sequel. His third book was released in 2022. Today, more than 25,000 copies off the books have been sold.

And although Cliff has covered five presidential visits over the course of his career, he’s been on assignment in Rome to meet the Pope, and in Guatemala for the God’s Child Project, he calls those “Off the Beaten Path” stories, done right in our own backyard, the highlight of his television career.