Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Bennett’

Wayne Bennett’s First Retirement Party

May 10, 2009
(Left to right) Dave Platta, Jason Dennis, Paul Therrien,  Cheryl Morgan Myers, Wayne Bennett, Borden Black,  Kurt Schmitz, Bob Jeswald,  Columbus, GA TV personalities

(Left to right) Dave Platta, Jason Dennis, Paul Therrien, Cheryl Morgan Myers, Wayne Bennett, Borden Black, Kurt Schmitz, Bob Jeswald, Columbus, GA TV personalities

It was like a family reunion at the Borden Black and Cheryl Morgan Myers “oldtimers” retirement party for WTVM anchorman Wayne Bennett . Wayne’s last night on WTVM will be Friday,  May 15, 2009.  Just as it did for me when I retired in 2000,  the station will give Wayne a few minutes at the end of the 6 p.m. newscast to say goodbye. 
Wayne Bennett, retiring WTVM anchor,  Jason Dennis, Fox 54 anchor and Fox 54/WTVM reporter

Wayne Bennett, retiring WTVM anchor, Jason Dennis, WXTX Fox 54 anchor and WXTX/WTVM reporter

Jason Dennis,  who anchors the 10 p.m. news on WXTX, Fox 54 and also does some reporting that airs on both WTVM and WXTX,  has been preparing reports on Wayne’s broadcasting career.  Wayne is happy with that.  “I requested that he be the one to do it,” he said.  “I asked him to keep it light,  not make it into an obituary.  I’m not dead.”  That could be a clue that Wayne will keep his goodbye light Friday evening. 

“How would you sum up your 20 years at WTVM?” I asked him.

“That’s a loaded question, Dick.  I have to be careful because you’ll put it on your website,” he quipped.

I smiled and suggested, “Just tell the truth.”

“Well,  the truth is that television has been good to me.  I have enjoyed it,  but,  I don’t like the direction television [news] is taking so I am glad to be getting out at this time.  That’s the truth”

The sentiment that TV news has been and continues to go downhill was prevelent among the oldtimers who are no longer in the business. 

But, the serious stuff didn’t dominate the party.  There were plenty of laughs, and folks had a good time remembering stories they had covered over the years.  Though there is concern about the future direction of TV news,  it was clear that the oldtimers love the business.  Like I have always said,  one thing is for sure,  you won’t be bored if you work in television news.  It does, indeed, get very exciting.

Wayne and Betty Bennett, Wayne Bennett's  "oldtimers" retirement party

Wayne and Betty Bennett, Wayne Bennett's "oldtimers" retirement party

Now, like me,  and Dee,  Wayne gets to kiss the crushing deadlines goodbye  and to relax a little.  And that’s what he plans to do.  He and wife Betty, after a brief stay in Florida, are heading for Panama, where they plan to live. The cost of living there is a third less than in the United States, Wayne told me.  How long?  “Well, that depends on how well we like it.  If we don’t like it, we’ll go somewhere else,”  Betty  said. 

“Sounds like you are going on an adventure.”

“That’s right,” she said. “We are going on adventure and we look forward to it.”

Sounds like a fine plan to me.  After all, life is for living, as the cliche’ goes.  Bon voyage to both of you.    

For years, Wayne sported a mustache, but shaved it off a few years ago.    I asked him, “Are you going to grow a mustache now?”

“I’m probably going to grow a full beard,” he said.

He gets one more retirement party.  WTVM is having one for him Saturday.

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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.

Dee’s Goodbye Party at the Bennett’s

June 30, 2008

  It was an afternoon and evening for sharing memories in the backyard of Wayne and Betty Bennett’s Harris County home. They, with the help of WTVM anchor-reporter Semone Doughton, held a farewell party for departing anchor Dee Armstrong.  About 55 co-workers, former co-workers and family and friends came to the barbeque. 

  

 

Wayne Bennett and Dee Armstrong

 Wayne Bennett and Dee Armstrong

 

  Her contract with the station expires at the end of the year. She has filed a civil rights suit against the station. Her last broadcast was on the 6 p.m. Monday news.  That was not the main subject of conversation. It was an evening of fun and laughter, and as I said, for remembering.

 

   I first met Dee in 1977 when I hired her as a reporter and weekend anchor for WRBL-TV. I was news director as well as the evening news anchor. She was just out of high school. She knew the basics of reporting, having had a good teacher, my old friend Ed Wilson. He had hired her as a reporter for WDAK radio when she was still in high school.  What she didn’t know was reporting with pictures. We were using 16mm film at the time.  She learned how to do that rapidly.

 

  She worked at WRBL for a few years, and then got a job with at a Green Bay, Wisconsin station.  Her executive producer there was Steve Faust, the first news director I worked with at WTVM. (I worked with a lot of news directors at WTVM.  Every time the station would change ownership, it would change news directors, and sometimes in between.  The station changed ownership four different times during the 15 years I worked there.) She got a leave of absence to come home to Columbus when her father was dying, and, instead of going back to Green Bay, ended up in Atlanta, where she got married and went to Georgia State University. Tragically, she lost her first husband to a high-rise building construction accident.

 

  However, she ended up working for Steve Faust again when he hired her as a reporter right after I switched stations in 1986.  She was only there a short time before my co-anchor Rebecca Todd left. That’s when the station decided to make her my co-anchor. Wayne Daughtery, manager at the time, asked me what I thought about the idea. I told him I thought it was a good idea and would work.

 

  It did. Our ratings, which were already quite high – we were the undisputed ratings leader – got even higher over time.  At one point we got a fifty share, which is almost unheard of, especially considering that so many choices had become available on cable TV. No station in Columbus – or probably anywhere else – comes near that now.

 

 

Dick McMichael and Dee Armstrong

 Dick McMichael and Dee Armstrong

 

  When I retired from anchoring in 2000, we were still on top by a good margin. After that, I continued for a year in a public affairs capacity. In what was called  a corporate-wide layoff – Raycom owns almost 50 stations – I was laid off after that year, but asked to come back shortly afterwards to do some special news projects and documentaries, which I did.

 

 Now, after 22 years on top at WTVM, her broadcasting career closes. She told me she will become more immersed in her financial services career and has some other projects in mind. She started learning the financial services business when, as she told me, “I saw the handwriting on the wall.”

 

  Welcome to life after TV, Dee. It’s not bad – a lot slower, but not bad. .

 

 

Paul, Bob,Dick,Dee,Dave

 

Left to right:  Paul Therrien, WTVM pohotographer; Bob Jeswald, WRBL (former WTVM) weathercaster; Dick McMichael, retired WTVM (former WRBL) news anchor; Dee Armstrong, departing WTVM anchor; Dave Platta, WTVM sports director and anchor.