Paul Karpowicz literally grew up in television. His father, Ray Karpowicz, was general manager of KSDK(TV) St. Louis for 25 years. "Even as a young kid, on vacations and holidays, I would hang out with the stage hands at the station," Karpowicz remembers. "I appeared on Romper Room
more times than any other kid in St. Louis."
So, by the time he entered Notre Dame University in 1971, Karpowicz was pretty sure what he wanted to do. Drawn to television sales, he paid his dues as a mail boy in the traffic department at WNDU-TV South Bend, Ind. During his senior year, he was finally allowed to make sales calls for the station.
Returning home to St. Louis with a degree in management, Karpowicz was ready to transform his childhood haunt, the television station, into his career castle. But the transition wasn't going to be simple: St. Louis's competitive market and a no-nepotism policy at his father's station kept him out.
"I knew I had to start in radio to break into television sales," Karpowicz acknowledges. "But, down deep, I always knew I wanted to be in television." Wanting to stay in his hometown, Karpowicz made lemons into lemonade: He became a sales rep first with WEW(AM) in 1975 and then with LIN-owned WIL(AM) a year later.
His television dream finally came to fruition in 1979. Gary Chapman, director of marketing and research of KSDK-TV St. Louis, was moving to WLNE-TV Providence, R.I. Knowing where Karpowicz's true passions were, he invited him to come along.
"I expected to spend a few years with WLNE, but it turned out to be 10 years, climbing through the ranks," Karpowicz recalls. He rose to become the station's vice president and general manager in 1988.
The following year, Chapman became LIN's president of television and again extended an invitation to Karpowicz to join him. Eager to return to the familiar territory of the Midwest, Karpowicz took the offer and rejoined LIN Television as president and general manager of WISH-TV Indianapolis.
"That was the greatest job in the world. There was an opportunity to get involved in so many things because it was the responsibility of community leaders to help the city develop," Karpowicz recalls. "It was a comfortable place to live, having grown up in the Midwest."
Five years later, LIN promoted him to vice president of television, operating out of its Rhode Island corporate offices. It took some convincing by Chapman, currently LIN's chief executive, for Karpowicz to leave the Midwest yet again. But at least he knew the state.
"We moved one block away from our old neighborhood," he says.
His workload as LIN's vice president of television seems to be growing. He already oversees the day-to-day operations of the company's 25 stations, which garnered net revenue of $272.4 million in 2001, and the group is in the process of acquiring six STC Broadcasting (Sunrise) stations.
Karpowicz's focus remains local. With the advent of digital television, he considers it vitally important that local television stations stay connected with the areas that they serve via community-based news, service and even television sales.
"Competing for people's time and attention will become greater," he says of the digital future. "As we go forward, those stations that know that will get stronger. Those stations that do not have ties [to the community] will have a problem."
Karpowicz is leading by example. He is the current Television Board chairman for the National Association of Broadcasters and also serves on the group's COLTAM Committee, which evaluates the research products and services that are available to the local broadcast industry.