Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chasing 4000

I produced my first newscast on a early October weekend in 1978.  I remember it because the Royals were in the process of losing the American League Championship to the New York Yankees as I watched from afar in Eugene, Oregon.  I had traveled out to Eugene in hopes of finding my television fortune.

Instead, I had run into a good-hearted man, Peter Speer, who ran the newsroom at the ABC station in Eugene, KEZI.  For about a month I produced the two weekend newscasts for Peter while I looked for full-time employment.  I remember working for a couple of pioneering women in broadcasting, Debbie Segura who would later land as one of the first employees at CNN and Dixie Watley who made her name as a entertainment reporter.   I was clueless.  I stumbled my way through putting together rundowns, timing the shows out, and writing legible copy.  But Peter saw something in me and helped me land my first full time TV gig at WTCN in Minneapolis where I once again produced weekends. 

I was way in over my head.  But I had a great teacher, Paul Adelmann, who took me by the hand and taught me the intricacies of good writing.   I received my finishing course in producing a little more than a year later in Little Rock working for Garry Long producing the 10pm news at KARK.  So by the middle of 1980 I probably had about 200 newscasts under my belt before moving on to WDAF where I had my longest run as a producer from 1980 to 1987. 

I produced a ton of newscast at WDAF.  It wasn't unusual for me to double on the 5 and 10 or 6 and 10.  I filled in on the weekend newscasts constantly.  During that almost seven year period I produced, conservatively, 1750 newscasts.  There was a summer in which for a period of three months I had 5 days off over 90 days.  A lot of those days included a lot of double newscasts because of a staff shortage.  Despite the abuse and I got plenty of it I had a news director, Mike McDonald, who encouraged me to experiment and take chances.  My newscasts had a flair, a character, a style that none of the other newscasts in the market could claim.  And I had helped built it from a bottom scraping number 3 to a strong number 1.

I had another 2 plus year run in Phoenix as a 10pm producer before returning to KC in 1990 where I remained a producer until June 1991.  Again, conservatively, I produced an additional 875 newscasts which would put me at a conservative estimate of 2850 newscasts before I took my first news director position in 1991 at KSNT.

I spent much of the 1990's as a news manager but I did a lot of producing.  I was at KSNT for a little more than 2 years where I produced at least 100 newscasts in that time.  You can add another 25 or so during my stint in Paducah and another 25 more in my even shorter stint in Omaha.  That puts me at 3000 newscasts.

I returned to WDAF in the spring of 1995 as a fill-in EP who produced a little bit before getting a full time producer's gig in September that last until January of 1996.  That's another 85 newscasts.  The rest of my time at WDAF I was an executive producer but I produced a lot of newscasts.  I filled in as vacation relief, producing special programs, being the go to guy to plug in any hole.  That four year stretch would put another 100 newscasts under my belt conservatively.

I went to Fargo as a news director but a budget cut put me back on the line in a big hurry handling newscast a minimum of three days a week.  I easily racked up another 150 newscasts produced.  Then it was off to WINK TV where we were always short of producers.  I remember within my three months on the job I produced the 5 p.m. news for about two months.  That first year because of staff shortfalls I produced another 80 newscasts easily.  2004 was much the same although that number fell to about 50.  By 2005 because of illness and my departure that number fell dramatically to 25.  So by the end of 2005 as I headed to my fourth and final news director job I had closed in on 3500 newscasts. 

In my short lived stint in Topeka I produced no more than a dozen newscasts.  Back in Fort Myers as an EP in Waterman I never touched a newscast.  It was frowned upon which I found stupid.  But I got back right back into the swing of things when I was lured to Sacramento and back to television where I worked as an EP beginning 2010.  I was supposed to produce sparingly.  I produced closed to 100 newscasts or special programs. 

That brings us to my new job as morning assignment editor at WFTX.  I remarked tonight to our director extraordinaire Xane Peters that I had produced about 4000 newscasts.  But alas I think I am actually short of that magical number.  I've plugged my way through another 60 newscasts.  So give or take a 50 or so newscasts I'm somewhere in the range of 3650 newscasts.  That's not a bad number by well short of the 4000 I bragged about to Xane.

Now throw in the 8 plus years of working as an Executive Producer with direct input on two or three newscasts a day and I zoom past 4000.  We're closing in on 10,000 in that case.  What does it all add up to or even mean.  I'm willing to be you that less than a dozen people have produced as many newscasts at as many television stations as I have.  It's nothing to brag about, in fact I find it embarrassing.  I got into a bad habit of chasing jobs that I thought would lead to something better. 

I probably should have never left WDAF the first time in 1987 because I could have and probably should have stayed there for the rest of my career.  But I would have missed working with so many great people who I still hold near and dear to my heart.  It's been a rollercoaster God willing, I'll put away number 4000 right here in Fort Myers at WFTX.  Now that would be something for somebody who is officially the morning assignment editor, now wouldn't it?

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