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.