Archive for October, 2008

Other Jobs?
October 31, 2008

After reading my previous entry about my start in television, someone asked what other kinds of jobs I did before I became a reporter.   When I thought about it,  I was amazed at just how many I had.

I was a paper boy,  cashier,  busboy,  grocery clerk,  dishwasher,  shopping cart collector, sales clerk, store detective, landscaper, waiter, bartender, host, concierge,  gift wrapper, a college admissions officer, an assistant,  meter feeder, and I once taught a history course to students earning their GED.

Marking a Milestone
October 28, 2008

This is me back in 1988 learning how to become a reporter.    Trying to make the transition from Rick Springfield wannabe to Dan Rather wasn’t easy.    Kara calls this my “Chachi” look.   One of our graphic artists saw the picture and immediately said “Charles in Charge.”    Enough with the Scott Baio comparisons!  

After an internship at WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, I got a paying job as assistant assignment editor at WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire.   The pay was horrible, about $13,000 a year, and the hours were worse, but the education I received there was priceless.  

Two weeks after I started, my supervisor left to work for then NH Governor John Sununu.    I got promoted to assignment manager, and got a raise of more than $2000.   Woo hoo!  I tended bar on the weekends and made more money mixing manhattans and martinis in two days than I did all week in the glamorous world of television.

I lived with my grandmother for a while to save money.  Her house was about a half hour from the station.  It was great.  I got to spend time with her, she did my laundry and on Thursday nights we watched LA Law together.    Eventually,  a reporter at Channel 9 needed a roommate so we got an apartment in Manchester.  

I immediately fell in love with the news business.  I thrived on getting new information about stories.   On election day, at 4PM thanks to exit polls that only the media see, I knew that Vice-President George Bush had beaten Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis in the race for president, even if it couldn’t be reported until hours later. 

Every day I was at the station by 7AM, and went through several newspapers, made beat calls, and assembled a list of assignments for our crews to cover.  I hired people, did tons of research (there was no internet then,) answered phones, all under the watchful eye of a very demanding boss.     I was off the clock around 7PM, after the evening news and a post mortem of our newscast.   By the way, lunch was at my desk.

On some days, I stayed late…on my own time, and accompanied reporters in the field so I could learn from them and try to achieve my dream.  I would write my own version of the story, the reporter would tell me how to hold a microphone, and the photographer would record what I would say.    I went to crime scenes, meetings, even a plane crash.   Many nights stayed  with the crews through their 11PM live shots, and then go home.   I sometimes even came in on a Saturday or Sunday morning where my news director Miles Resnick would often work with me in the studio.  His advice:  lose the Boston accent and get a haircut. 

Those were long days, of  “paying my dues,”   and I loved every minute of it.

 I edited a resume tape (a sample of my work) and I was all set to work for CBS news.    Seriously, I knew I’d end up in an exotic locale such  as Amarillo, Texas,  Bakersfield, California or Wheeling, West Virginia.   On Thanksgiving weekend ’88 I house sat for some friends of my parents.  I took my typewriter and typed out roughly 35 resumes and cover letters and sent them with my tapes all over America.     I ended up getting  two offers:  one in Sarasota, Florida and the other in Rockford, Illinois.     I was off to the Land of Lincoln and the rest, they say,  is history.

Breaking News, Not! New York Times to Endorse Obama
October 17, 2008

Someone said to me today “did you hear the New York Times is endorsing Barack Obama for president in this Sunday’s edition?  This is big.”

Is it?  Not really.   We could have reported this the moment Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race in June.    You see, for the past 52 years, the New York Times has always  endorsed  a Democrat for president.  The last Republican was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.   That is 12 elections in a row the Times has recommended to readers they vote for a Democrat.   Endorsing Obama will make it 13.

There are some years when Democrats deserved the endorsement and other years when Republicans should have been picked.  There are certainly years when the Times editorial board was way out of step with the majority of Americans.

Take 1972 for example.    RIchard Nixon won 49 states in an historic landslide.   Democrat George McGovern, the New York Times’ choice for president, carried one state”  Massachusetts.   As a native Bay Stater, there’s an old joke that Massachusetts, too,  is often out of step with America.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan walloped Walter Mondale, also taking 49 states to Mondale’s one (his native Minnesota.)   The New York Times endorsement didn’t help a bit.  Even liberal Massachusetts went for the conservative Reagan.

Bottom line is, the endorsement of New York Times doesn’t mean what it used to.   Make your own decision on who to vote for.

Celebrating the Stegosaurus
October 15, 2008

Today I had the honor of being master of ceremonies at the re-dedication of the re-dedication of the Burr Mall in downtown Hartford.     The mall is the legacy of Ella Burr McManus, who left behind money in her will to create and maintain the plaza. 

The “Stegosaurus” sculpture by Alexander Calder was added in 1973.   The mall and the sculpture even the fountain were recently rehabbed and it is worth a trip to check it out.

Stories that make you wonder…
October 14, 2008

We report dozens of stories everyday and so many of them raise questions.    Take for example, Friday’s robbery of the Sovereign Bank on the Boulevard in West Hartford.    We cover bank robberies all the time, but this one was different.

It was the 5th time it was robbed in two years!!   

The questions raised: 

1.  How do tellers feel?  Are they afraid?

2.  Why doesn’t the bank hire a security guard?   Many other banks do.

3.  Why is this bank so easy to rob?

Another story we covered was the theft of a copper drain pipe, also in West Hartford.     The suspect lives right around the corner from the scene of the crime.  It was his neighbor!   Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s downspout.

1.  What do they say to each other when they’re walking their dog, or taking the child to school?   Talk about awkward.

4th Congressional District
October 11, 2008

This week on Face the State we continue our 5 part look at the 5 congressional races in our state.  The 5th features Republican Congressman Chris Shays being challenged by Democrat Jim Himes.

Sunday at 11.

Our Incredible Shrinking State
October 8, 2008

We got some bad news in the television industry this fall:   the Hartford/New Haven market has fallen to its lowest ranking ever.    Nielsen (the ratings people) have declared we are now the 30th biggest TV market in the country…larger than Providence and San Antonio, but now smaller than Nashville and Charlotte.

When I started at WFSB in 1992, this was the 23rd market in the country, and Al and Denise remember when it was market 21.   Hartford and New Haven were different places 16 years ago.   Both had department stores downtown.   The New Haven coliseum and the Hartford Civic Center were hosting concerts.  The Whalers and yes the Celtics played in Hartford, and on your way to the game you could shop at the GAP.

Since then, our area has seen very little growth.   Cities like Baltimore, San Diego and Phoenix saw population grow, in some cases at our expense.   A smaller market size impedes our ability to attract a major league sports team, attract young talented professionals and it can negatively impact the economy, certainly for the media!

What’s next?   We’ll probably drop some more.    Kansas City and Columbus are nipping at our heels. 

Oh, and that smaller market where I “trained” to come to Hartford?    Grand Rapids is now market 39.

1st Congressional District
October 4, 2008

This week on Face the State we meet the two major party candidates in the race for the 1st Congressional District.  They are incumbent Congressman John Larson (D) and West Hartford town council member Joe Visconti.  Sunday at 11.

How to pronounce “Bulkeley
October 3, 2008

The historic Bulkeley Bridge is now lighted again! After years of being dark, the longest stone arch in the world is now shining brightly. By the way, the bridge will undoubtedly be mispronounced, so we are here to set the record straight. Here is an excerpt from a blog entry from this past summer, that is worth repeating.

As you may know, the name of the former Connecticut governor, U.S. Senator, Aetna president, and Baseball Hall of Famer Morgan Bulkeley is often pronounced two ways: BULK-lee and BUCK-lee. Only one is correct: BULK-lee.

I spoke to Bulkeley’s great-grandson, Morgan G. Bulkeley IV, who told me BULK-lee is the correct way to pronounce his family name and everyone in the family says it that way and always has.    Channel 3 political analyst is friends with Houghton Bulkeley, who confirmed the pronunciation.  The Bulkeley Bridge and Bulkeley High School are named after the late governor, and those are both pronounced BULK-lee. There is some belief that the bridge is BULK-lee and the school is BUCK-lee, but the authority on the pronunciation says that is not true.

So why do so many people pronounce it the incorrect way? For some, BULK-lee may be difficult to say. People who mispronounced the name in 1925 then taught their children this wrong way, and then those children passed it on to the next generation, and so on. If you grow up being told that is how to pronounce it, you believe it. That’s why I often hear “my mother went to Bulkeley and she pronounced it BUCK-lee, and they are vehement in their defense of the incorrect pronunciation.

Also, this from David Medina, the Director of Communications for Hartford Public Schools. “Dennis, the proper pronunciation is “bulk-lee.”

FYI: I have some Bulkeleys in my family tree, way back in the middle ages in England.

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