Seven thousand three hundred five days ago, Connecticut still had toll booths on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. There was no state income tax. Our governor, William O’Neill, was a tavern owner.
Back then, WTNH was a middle aged television station, owned by Capitol Cities Communications – before it bought ABC. It was second place in what was, for all intents and purposes, a 2 station market. A station with an identity crisis, not knowing whether to be Connecticut’s station or just concentrate on New Haven. It was making money hand-over-fist, which tended to minimize their concern.
On May 21, 1984, One thousand forty three weeks and four days ago, I walked into Channel 8 as an employee. If you would have told me twenty years ago that I’d still be there today, I’d have called you a fool. In my 11 years in radio, I had worked all over the country. No job had ever run more than 3 or 4 years – and most were much shorter.
Al Terzi (WFSB), Gerri Harris (who knows) and Diane Smith (WTIC radio, CPTV), were our main anchors. Bob Picozzi (ESPN radio, UConn Women’s basketball play-byplay) was our sports director. Our news director, the guy who hired me, was Mike Sechrist (General Manager WKRN – Nashville). His assistant, Wendie Feinberg (Executive Producer Nightly Business Report – PBS). In the control room, Tom O’Brien (General Manager KXAS – Dallas) and Jeff Winn (Fox Sports “Best Damned Sports…”).
Of all the on-air and management personnel at the station that day, only I am left. I have survived 4 different owners, 4 general managers, 10 news directors and countless dozens of assistants, producers, reporters and anchors.
Still, I often ask myself, where have I gone wrong?
That’s not to say my professional life hasn’t been good. In fact, it’s been great. This is a very rewarding job and the people who watch have been generous in their support, while my bosses have been… well, they’ve been generous too. I just wonder, what if?
Have I missed the bright lights of the big city? Would I have been able to compete at that level?
Today, if I were looking for work elsewhere, would I be taken seriously? A few years longevity is a good thing, but twenty years in New Haven makes it seem like I’ve been unable to escape.
Since I have been at WTNH, only four of the on-air people hired were older than I was at the time – and three of those came within my first year. This is a business of the young… and I say that even though this station isn’t anywhere near as youth obsessed as some others.
I remember early in my radio career, seeing people who’d been in one place too long, who were now just going through the motions. I promised myself that would never be me. I’ve kept my word.
It is still important to me, after all this time, to know whether I’ve entertained or not. There are no gimmes. A bad Friday night 11:00 weathercast can ruin my weekend… ask my wife.
Even tonight, I brought home a snippet of tape because a few seconds of well timed on-air chatter with the floor director seemed memorable. Every show counts. I am never unhappy to go to work. I have never taken, or needed, a ‘mental health’ day.
I still have my fantasy jobs – things I’d like to do and sometimes even dream about. I’d like to do a game show. I’d like to do a sit down fun chat show. I’d like to fill-in again on Good Morning America. Who knows?
I worry about losing a little off the fastball – about someone up-and-coming who might want my job. I worry about a new owner or manager who might not care that I’ve put twenty years in. After all, in the 21st century, company loyalty is something employees have toward companies… not the other way around.
About 15 years ago, my agent said there would come a time when I’d want to shave ten years off my age. I think I could actually pass with that lie. Until recently, I’d regularly get viewer mail telling me to stop coloring my hair… even though it’s never been colored. But, I won’t lie about my age because I’m proud to have the experience and knowledge that only comes with being 53.
I am not sorry that I’ve made it to 20 years. I am not disappointed in what I’ve accomplished. I have a wonderful life. I only wonder where the other paths led.