Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mr. Roberts

Television news is a rough and tumble business.  The hours are unpredictable, you work way too many holidays and the pay is atrocious.  Yet you get to work with and meet the most interesting people along the way.  Along the way in my crazy patch work of a career a few people served as role models.  Mike McDonald, Jim Overbay, Gary Long, and Mary Cox come to mind.

Constant readers of my blog know that Mike was my news director for many years.  He worked tirelessly at trying to mold my managerial skills.  Jim Overbay was the assignment manager at KMBC when I first started in TV news and his ethics and unflappable nature always struck me as a sort of journalistic North Star.  Gary Long was the anti-Overbay, with a crazy, manic, approach to managing.  But his genius was his self-assured approach to decision making.  Mary Cox was just the smartest one in the room.  I can't find enough adjectives to describe how great she is so suffice to say Mary's amazing.

 But I don't think I would be the producer that I am without having come across the man pictured on the left.  Gerry Roberts was the very first producer I ever worked for.  Gerry along with the human dynamo Jerry Plantz both tutored me at KMBC.  But Gerry was special because he was so multi-talented.  Mr. Roberts as Pam Freund and I always called him, could report, run the desk, produce a great newscast, and run the entire newsroom.  I bet he could have run a life truck if needed.

After I left KMBC in 1979 Gerry stayed on at the then #1 station in town only to watch it slowly slip into the market's bottom slot.  He left for KYW in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's when the then NBC affiliate was a complete train wreck.  He tried to help Mike Sullivan turn it around as the assistant news director.  After the station ended up spitting him and Sullivan out Mr. Roberts landed back in Kansas City.

Our paths crossed again at WDAF in the early 1990's for a short time.  He worked the assignment desk and his presence served as a strong reminder of the what it took to be a great television journalist.  Unfortunately KMBC didn't wait long to snatch him back and he was back at the #1 station in the market.

Gerry served the last several years as the station's assistant news director.  It wasn't unusual for Mr. Roberts to roll up his sleeves and produce a newscast.  I'd be willing to bet he is the only AND in a top 30 market at a #1 station who could do that on a consistent basis.

I always treasured our relationship.  Gerry never hesitated to call or email with either a question about a possible hire or just to inquire into how life was treating me.  I don't think Mr. Roberts had any idea how much it meant to me that he trusted my judgment.

Mr. Roberts is calling it a career on Friday, December 31st.  Kansas City is losing the best television journalist it ever produced who didn't serve as a news director or sit at an anchor desk.  The community is losing a treasure.  Fortunately for me, I still have a touchstone that reminds me that you must always do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Thank you Mr. Roberts.

Editors Addendum:  If you think I'm kidding about the producing, Mr. Roberts is producing on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas!

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