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By Tom Wolzien, Chairman, Wolzien LLC
I was fired as 10 p.m. news producer at WLUK in Green Bay
during the summer of 1973. That was Watergate summer, and I kept putting clips
of the congressional hearings at the top of the news. The station management
said Watergate was just a political vendetta, and that I should put on more
Lake Michigan area weather because that was what viewers really cared about,
not the potential impeachment of President Nixon. Thirty seconds of hard copy down
in the show was enough, they said.
I kept leading with Watergate. The management was not
amused. One afternoon I was in the tape room editing on the big 2-inch
machines, and an intercom announcement said I should come to the general
manager's office. I did, and 10 minutes later I was standing in the parking lot
with my worldly possessions in a cardboard box. Just like in the movies.
Money running out, stuck jobless in Green Bay, my wife
Valerie and I decided it was time to advertise, and the only place to advertise
was a Broadcasting magazine blind
box. A classified ad could be run without your name (lest the whole world know
you were looking), and responses would be resent from a box number at the
magazine. The blind box ad went something like "Young producer [you could talk
about age back then], new ideas, seeks active newsroom....Write Broadcasting Box
336 [or whatever]."
And the ad was effective. I got one response! We
excitedly opened the envelope that relayed the letter from the Broadcasting blind box. It started out
"Dear Boxholder: You sound like just the type of person we need in our
newsroom...." It was a most encouraging letter, until we got to the signature.
It was signed by the guy that had just fired me.
What Happened Since...
After Green Bay, I landed at CBS-owned KMOX in St. Louis,
the company's experimental station for converting from film to electronic
cameras. I became one of the nation's first news show producers using the
electronic technology, which led me to assistant news director at KSD/Pulitzer
in St. Louis and then NBC News in Washington as the White House field producer
for NBC News.
Over 16 years at NBC I ran coverage of major news events
like Three Mile Island and the Begin-Sadat Mideast peace talks; was showrunner
of prime and evening news shows; was exec in charge of election nights; and
went on to corporate as senior VP of cable & business development and part
of the team that started CNBC.
Wall Street found me at NBC, and I spent the next 14
years covering the industry as the senior media analyst for Sanford Bernstein,
where I did early research in areas like cable modems and using the Internet to
bypass conventional distribution systems (OTT). Since 2005 I've run my own
business, providing strategic consulting services to Discovery Communications,
Warner Bros., the Directors Guild of America, Microsoft and others. I'm TiVo's
lead independent director.
And despite the experience with the Green Bay ad, I still
subscribe to Broadcasting & Cable, 38 years later.