I into the home stretch at my new job as far as producer training. My patient teacher, Aram, is carefully walking through the tasks I need to complete in order to get a newscast on the air. Day side executive producer James has been a big help as well. I already knew the computer system we use, iNews. But unfortunately an upgrade to the system wiped out all the shortcuts that would help make the job easier.
Another part of the learning curve is producing graphics. We use a web based computer program called AXIS to make full screens, mug shots, maps and everyone's producing favorite, the over the shoulder graphic. This is completely out of my wheel house but it's actually pretty fun. My step-son, Andrei, an outstanding television graphic artist, would probably laugh at my feeble efforts, but I like what I'm doing.
All of this caused me to flash back tonight to the very first newscast I produced. It was in October 1978 at KEZI in Eugene, Oregon. I quit my job at KMBC that fall hoping to find a job somewhere in Oregon. Ridge Shannon, my boss at KMBC, put me in contact with Peter Spears, the news director at KEZI.
Peter met me at a bar where he introduced me to Anchor Steam beer. Then we went to his house where he proceeded to roll a fat joint and invited me to house sit while he and his wife went to San Francisco. The house sitting involved one bit of unpleasantness. Peter's cat (it was an outdoor cat) was run over by a car in front of the house while he was gone. I was dumbstruck. I put the cat in a box and slid it under the porch and gave him the bad news when he returned. He took it all in stride.
He then proceeded to hire me part-time to produce the weekend newscasts. I had never been close to doing anything like that in Kansas City. So I popped my producing cherry in Eugene. If my memory serves me correct, Dixie Whatley, another new hire, anchored the weekend train wrecks. Dixie went on to bigger and better things, first with Entertainment Tonight then working in Boston. The sports anchor was a woman, Debbie Segura. Debbie went on to CNN. An hispanic, she somehow managed to marry Lew Dobbs, go figure. For the life of me I can't remember the weathercaster. My favorite co-worker at KEZI, Tom Cassidy, became THE business reporter at CNN. Tom died from AIDS, much too young, in 1991.
The Eugene experiment only lasted a month. Peter didn't have the money to keep me on. I wasn't having any luck finding a media job, so homesick, I headed back to Kansas, and to some good fortune awaiting me back at KMBC.