Posts Tagged ‘broadcasting’

My Memoir “The Newsman” is Now an eBook

October 28, 2013

newsman-cover-jpg1While many more people still read traditional print books, the number of eBook readers continues to grow, The latest figures I could find show that  about 23 percent of book sales are eBooks.

My memoir, “The Newsman,” which I highly recommend, is a now an Xlibris eBook. It’s available at Xlibris.com and the Kindle store at Amazon.com.  I read Kindle books on my iPad.

You can still order the printed version in either hardback or perfect bound softback at Xlibris.com.

Advertisements

The Microphone that Made it to the Columbus Museum

March 5, 2012

The inspiration for this post comes from my PIC QUIZ feature on Facebook. I asked folks to tell me the significance and type of this antique microphone.

Paul  Pierce, artistic director of the Springer Opera House, was the winner of the ATTABOY AWARD because he knew that it is a carbon microphone, and suggested that  it is from the Jim Woodruff era at WRBL. I said that was close enough if he was referring to Jim Woodruff, Sr., not Jim Woodruff, Jr. Jim Woodruff, Jr. ended up running and owning the largest share of the station,  but it was Sr.who bought WRBL in the  early 1930’s and, this mic was being used then. It could even have been used when WRBL went on the air in 1928 in a dressing room of the now gone Royal Theater.  The Royal became the Three Arts Theater before the building became victim of the wrecking ball.

Roy Martin, the man who built  the Royal, a 2,700-seat movie and vaudeville theater, was the first owner of WRBL radio, which went on the air with a 50-watt transmitter built by “Radio” Bill Lewis – hence the call letters WRBL – who continued working as an engineer at WRBL long after Roy Martin sold it. Legend has it that he sold it because he thought it couldn’t be profitable because “you have to pay all those people to be on the radio.”  Over the years it went from a 50-watt independent to a 250-watt, and, finally, a 5,000-watt CBS affiliate that made a lot of profit, and gave birth to WRBL-FM, and, finally WRBL-TV which has made tons of profits over the years. Martin’s theater chain was quite profitable, too. And it got back into the broadcasting business when it became part owner of WDAK-TV, which morphed into WTVM. It became sole owner of WTVM. It’s been sold a number of times since then, as has WRBL-TV.

So you can see that the old carbon mic is an important historical artifact.  It now belongs to the Columbus Museum.  Don Nahley, who was given the mic when he left WRBL-TV as manager, asked me and former broadcast journalist Al Fleming to  join him in presenting the mic to the museum.  Don and I worked together at  WRBL-TV for many years, and we worked with Al there for a short while. Museum Executive Director Tom Butler accepted the microphone for the museum’s collection of historical artifacts. Don, Al, and I are all glad it’s now the property of the museum. We think that is where it  should be.

A Way to Fight Junk Information Addicition

January 16, 2012

Eating junk food can make you unhealthily fat. And ingesting too much junk information can make you unhealthily uninformed.  Way too many of us fit in both categories.

“Who wants to hear the truth when they can be affirmed and told they are right,” Clay Land – a cousin of mine, by the way – said on Weekend Edition Sunday morning. Being interviewed about his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, Clay said that we can be better informed if we seek factual information instead of opinions that confirm our beliefs.  His book tells us how we can do that.

He is addressing a big problem. We are feasting on texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets. Some experts think our attention spans have become unhealthily short.  We can change that by changing our information consumption habits.

One can’t blame the providers for the problem because they are giving us what they think we want, content that confirms our beliefs. But, just as Wal-Mart started carrying fruits and vegetables and lower salt and fat content in order to stop losing high-end customers, information providers could start providing more fact and fewer opinions. But we have to reward good information providers by becoming good customers.

I think he has picked a subject is quite timely, one that needs our attention. And I plan to read the book. And it’s not just because he is the son of my cousin Ray Johnson, who is an Albany, Georgia psychiatrists.  Ray gave me the heads-up on Clay’s scheduled interview on PBS. I’m glad he did.

 

Kurt Says He Was Asked to Leave WTVM

March 29, 2011

When WTVM Chief Meteorologist Kurt Schmitz and I were messaging each other on Facebook, I asked him how things were going at 9.   He explained that he was told to leave WTVM. I told him that nothing surprises me in the world of TV, because, in my opinion, it’s cannibalistic. 

The first time I heard that term used in connection with a work environment was when it was used by the late Jim Woodruff, Jr., who was part owner, president, and general manager of WRBL Radio and TV.  When I told him in 1968 I had accepted a job at WAGA-TV in Atlanta and would be leaving WRBL, he said that I would find it more cannibalistic in Atlanta.  I was flattered that he made an effort to get me to stay at WRBL, but I had already accepted the job so I left, being careful not to burn any bridges with Jim.  I had a good relationship with him, and indeed it turned out that it was a good thing I didn’t burn that bridge, because I came back about five years later as the Vice President of News as well as the evening news anchor.

He was right about Atlanta being more cannibalistic, but I already knew that because I had worked at WSB Radio for four years.  That’s not to say there weren’t really fine people there.  There were, and I had good friends, but I did quickly learn who were the back stabbers and dealt with them accordingly. However, I also found it true to a lesser degree at all the TV stations I worked for.  It just seemed a little more intense in the Atlanta broadcast arena.  The stakes are a lot higher in the really big markets. Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to the TV business.  When people are competing for power, status, and recognition, as well as money, it is well known they can play roughly.

That’s not to say anyone is playing roughly in this case, because I really don’t know the details of what is going on with the situation with Kurt, because he is being careful about what he says on advice from counsel, he told me via email. He did tell me this much:

“I reported for work on Friday at my regular time, and after a short meeting I was then asked to leave the station. And after a weekend of uncertainty I found out finally today that my job with the company had been terminated.  I was stunned as this came out of nowhere.”

That’s all he would say, but he added he will have more to say later to stop rumors from flying.

I asked WTVM Vice President and General Manager Lee Brantley about this and he said it is a personnel matter and he cannot comment.

 

Business Leader and Philanthropist J. Barnett Woodruff Dies

January 18, 2011

J. Barnett Woodruff at the dedication ceremony of the replica of the Civil War ship the Water Witch at the National Civil War Naval Museum (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

  The last member of the Woodruff family who participated in pioneering broadcasting in Columbus died at the age of 87 last night. Columbus native J. Barnett Woodruff, the son of Jim Woodruff, Senior and brother of the late Jim Woodruff, Jr. and late sister Emily Woodruff, was a part owner of WRBL Radio and TV before it was sold  in 1978.  Their father, Jim Woodruff, Sr., bought WRBL Radio back in the early 1930’s, a few years after it went on the air in a dressing room of the Royal Theater in 1928.  He turned it over to Jim in the late thirties. It grew and grew and ended up a very profitable radio and, eventually, television station. Barnett had a financial interest in the company, but left it up to Jim to run the stations. He had told me he was more interested in the family real estate business.

However, circumstances caused him to become very involved.  Jim died in an automobile accident  in Athens causing his majority ownership of Columbus Broadcasting Company to go into a family trust managed by the First National Bank.  Barnett owned  a minority interest in the company and became president.

The station was sold about two years after Jim Woodruff, Jr. died. Barnett did an extraordinary thing on his last day there.  He personally walked around the building and shook hands, thanked employees for their good work and handed them an envelope containing one-hundred-dollar bills.  I felt so expansive that when I got home that night I handed a couple of them to my teenage son. Teenagers just love cash.

He was a kind, generous man, supporting a number of charities including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Springer Opera House, and the National Civil War Naval Museum. His brother Jim had been instrumental in raising the ironclad Jackson from the Chattahoochee River and starting the naval museum, and his sister Emily was a generous supporter of the Springer.

He was a member of the Rotary Club of Columbus and First Presbyterian Church. He is survived by a daughter, two sons, and 9 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.  A memorial service will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.

Penny Leigh Short Leaves Us

December 14, 2009

We have lost another Columbus TV icon. Penny Leigh Short died Sunday of a heart attack. She was 66 years old. She came to Columbus in 1962 after growing up in West Frankfort, Illinois, and going to high school and college in Naples, Florida

While Penny and I were on competing newscasts for a number of years, we ended up together at WRBL for a few years. She was in sales at WRBL. Though competitors for a while, we were always friends. The sunny personality we saw on the air when she did the weather was the same sunny personality we experienced off the air.

She worked for WTVM, WLTZ and WRBL, and for about 12 years at Jay Auto Mall. She is survived by her husband, Ted Short, three children and two grandchildren. Ted tells me there will be a celebration of life event to honor her memory. He will announce the time and place later.

We’ll miss Penny and her sunny personality.

Al, Don and I Dine at 79

October 4, 2009

My old broadcasting days co-worker and friend Don Nahley called me recently to asked me to lunch.  The occasion was his birthday. 

 “It’s your birthday.  Well, in that case, I’m paying for it.”

“No.  I’m going to call Al and see if he wants to come, too.”

He did, and the three of us had lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  Don wouldn’t accept my nor Al’s offer to pick up the check.  “I’m not going you invite you to lunch and then let you pay for it.”

“Well, all right,” I said, “but we’ll do the same thing on my birthday. You and Al can come and I’ll pick up the check.”

Al Fleming, Dick McMichael, Don Nahley celebrating Dick's birthday at Fudruckers.

Al Fleming, Dick McMichael, and Don Nahley celebrating Dick's birthday at Fuddruckers. (Photo taken by busboy at Fuddruckers using Don's camera)

And that’s exactly what we did Friday.  Al said he was going to do the same for his next birthday, if he’s still alive next March.  All three of us are 79 years old.  Wonder if Don and Al wanted me to tell you that. Oh, well, too late now.

“I think we ought to put it in our wills that we will pick up the check for our next birthday in case one of us doesn’t live that long,”  he said.

Nobody ever said the three of us are normal and conventional, probably because we’re not.  That’s no fun.

One time when the three of us gathered for lunch at the Mediterranean Cafe (no longer in business), a lady, who was with a group of other ladies leaving the restaurant, stopped at our table and grabbed the check.  I tried to grab it back because it was my turn to pay. She wouldn’t hear of it.  She said, “It’s for all that you guys did for us over the years.” Now, that was special.  I have to confess that I was moved. 

All of us worked in at least two Columbus TV stations, and, at one time, all three of us worked for the same station, WRBL, at the same time.  Al worked at WTVM, WRBL, and WLTZ. (He still does commentaries on WLTZ’s Rise n’ Shine Show with Calvin Floyd.)  Don worked at WRBL for about 29 years, then worked for WXTX for a short period. I worked at WRBL, off and on, from 1953 to 1986, when I switched to WTVM, where I worked until retirement in 2000.

The three of us have personally experienced the evolution of television broadcasting in Columbus.  What’s the difference between then and now?  Stay tuned.

Walter Cronkite and Me

July 18, 2009

I learned of the death of Walter Cronkite when Phil Scoggins called me to ask if I would give him an interview to run on the 11p.m. news on WRBL.  I immediately said, “Yes.”  I was honored to do the interview.

As I told Phil in the interview, my television news career and Walter Cronkite’s started about the same time. He took Douglas Edwards’ place on CBS-TV and I took Glenn Broughman’s place on WRBL-TV, the station that carried the CBS Evening News. 

At that time,  television news reporting was not entertainment oriented.  Dignity and style prevailed.  News was, and still should be, a serious business.  He built a tremendous amount of trust over the years nationally, and I did my best to do the same thing locally. 

I only saw him in person once.  All of the network big guns converged on the Radio and Television News Director’s Association Convention at Miami in the early 1970’s.   I was WRBL Radio and Television news director, as well as anchor of the evening news, at the time.   The network news anchors came to rally America’s news directors in the fight to show President Nixon and Vice President Agnew that they could not harness and intimidate the media.  Their attacks failed as both of them were forced to resign for other reasons.

I was actually on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite only once. A Fort Benning soldier refused to wear his uniform as a protest against the Vietnam War.  I interviewed him and CBS ran that interview.  The CBS News Southern Bureau chief told me Cronkite said he liked the interview.  Coming from Walter Cronkite, that meant a lot.  

People are saying that he was the “gold standard of broadcast journalism,” and that he was “the most trusted man in America.”  They are also saying that no one today can match the credibility he achieved.  I agree. He was not flashy. He was not Hollywood handsome. He was avuncular, and apparently that’s what America wanted because many millions of them watched him for 19 years on CBS.  When he said, “And that’s the way it is, ” they believed him

Dee Armstrong on the State of Local Television News

March 23, 2009

Speaking, at my invitation, to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus,  former Columbus TV news anchor Dee  Armstrong drew sharp contrast to the way news was reported in years past and the way it is reported now.

She doesn’t think experience counts for much any more,  decrying the way young reporters,  she believes,  have no respect for veterans who have decades of experience, veterans who could help them become  effective, mature  reporters.  

She said that when she was a young reporter she revered the veterans who had proven themselves in the business,  citing her formative years working for Ed Wilson and me.  Ed,  who was news director at WDAK at one time,  taught her how to be a radio reporter when she was still in Columbus High School.  She learned how to think in terms of telling stories with pictures when I hired her away from Ed – sorry Ed – to report for WRBL-TV.  I was news director at WRBL-TV at the time.

That background and her talent enabled her to become a very successful anchor at WTVM.  She and I co-anhored the news on WTVM from about 1987 to 2000 when I retired.  We had impressive ratings.  After I retired she continued at WTVM, co-anchoring with Wayne Bennett,  who will retire in May.  They also had good ratings. 

She pointed out that in years past news departments came up with enterprise reports,  digging into issues that affect people.  I can remember those days.  In Columbus, it appears that they are gone.

Dee’s leaving television news,  and Wayne’s leaving,  as well as mine,  represents, I beleive,  the end of an era.  The torch has been passed,  but it could be that it has been rejected.

Let’s Hope NBC’s Experiment with a Prime Time Jay Leno Show Works

December 10, 2008

  Finally, one of the networks has realized that there is a prime time audience for talk/variety shows. I have been saying for years that most nights the best things are The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the David Letterman program.

Jay Leno (U.S. Navy Photo)

Jay Leno (U.S. Navy Photo)

  I have been watching them in prime time for some time now. I simply record them and play them back when I want to see them.  When Leno moves to 10:00 p.m., I’ll record the shows for at least 2o minutes so I can fast forward  through all of the commercials. Digital video recording is one of the bext things that happened  to TV program consumers. 

  I’ll get to see the whole show by a little after 11:00 p.m., which is ideal because I’ll be able to watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart at about 11:10,  again sans commercials.

  NBC is going to save a pile of money because the Tonight Show is a lot cheaper to produce than scripted dramas.  The Tonight Show is NBC’s most profitable progam. So the prime time audience gets what television does best,  talk/variety, and NBC will save a lot of money, but this move will hurt the Hollywood studios that produce scripted dramas.

  I do hope that Jay will feature guests such as stand-up comedians, musical groups, and singers, a little more and him a little less.  I like him, but I also like variety.  Also, I’d like to see more of his unusal cars.

Jay Leno in his Hispano-Suiza 8 (Photo by Alan Light)

Jay Leno in his Hispano-Suiza 8 (Photo by Alan Light)