Topping Out on Top

B&C's chief writes a last chapter to a 25-year love story

This is my last turn on this page. Come tomorrow, BROADCASTING & CABLE will have a new editor in chief. He is Max Robins, a former Variety
reporter and TV Guide
columnist. He comes with a great reputation and my good wishes.

I'm getting bumped upstairs (literally: I'm going from the 14th to 18th floor here at 360 Park Ave. South), where I will be working on other projects, including the BROADCASTING & CABLE Yearbook. As editor at large, I will also work on our conferences and contribute to the magazine. I make the move with a few regrets, much sadness and some excitement at having the opportunity to test some new ideas.

This ends a 25-year run at the magazine that started on DeSales Street in Washington, where it was based for its first 67 years. My first job included running copy between the copy desk and the typesetters, wrangling chili dogs for reporters and editors as they toiled deep into the night, and keeping everybody supplied with carbon paper.

I began my last job as the top editor in 1997 with the task of moving the magazine from Washington to New York. That wasn't easy, but we are now well established in the heart of the media capital of the world. This is clearly the place to be.

My goal has been to make B&C the community newspaper of the television industry. We would tell all: the hirings, the firings, the deals, the politics, the hits, the flops, the breakthroughs, the busts. We would spot the trends even before those who were making them. You are the judge of our success.

It has been my mission to provide a window into the industry for the public at large. The media are powerful institutions and thus bear close scrutiny. I take great pride in having given critics of the industry equal time in these pages.

I have tried to keep alive the traditions handed down to me by magazine founder Sol Taishoff and my immediate predecessor and mentor Don West. Chief among those traditions is to make the case that the electronic media deserve the same First Amendment protections as print. That means no special programming restrictions and no special programming obligations. Broadcasting as free as the press. I believe it. You must believe and fight for it every day.

I turn over to Robins a remarkable staff. Each of our seven reporters gets his or her share of big "gets," without sacrificing the accuracy and credibility for which this magazine is known. They also produce an incredible volume of work, delivering inch after column inch of lively and occasionally brilliant copy.

John Eggerton pulls double duty, covering TV stations and writing editorials. Steve McClellan does it all. John Higgins owns cable. Paige Albiniak takes on an army of Hollywood reporters every day and often wins. Ken Kerschbaumer is a one-man TV tech trade. Bill McConnell knows more about policy and the politics of media ownership than any one alive. Allison Romano covers cable programming as obsessively as Adrian Monk solves crimes.

The editors somehow pull it altogether and get it out the door every Friday by 5 p.m. (or shortly thereafter; we've been know to blow a deadline or two). If we did miss a deadline, it wasn't the fault of Susan Qualtrough, our hardworking managing editor. She knows how to drive copy. More important, she cares about language and getting it right.

Ably assisting Susan is Eric Smith. He edits copy, proofs pages and produces our two daily products, TV Fax
and TV Buyer. Art Director Todd Gast has been with me the whole way in New York, through a couple of redesigns. He knows the trick of making stories pop when the words fail. Melanie Clarke came to us as an intern and stuck around by making herself indispensable.

The magazine hit its stride in New York when P.J. Bednarski became my deputy in 2000. He provides the critical programming eye that I lack. He carries the day-to-day load and is always best at reviving tired copy. I enjoy his column.

The sadness comes from having to leave these people. It amazes me that so few can do so much. Like all good reporters and editors, they are at their best when things are at their worst. They worked the phones and the computers through sickness, power outages and blizzards and as the towers fell on 9/11.

I thank them for their faith in me, in each other and in journalism, the best of all professions.

In a business where it's part of the game to massage numbers to show superiority, I've had it easy. When I took the top editor's job in 1997, BC was television's No. 1 newsweekly. As I leave, it is still No. 1. Period.