These ARE the good old days

The “good old days” of TV News weren’t necessarily better, but they sure were a lot more fun. I had lunch with Mike Sechrist of WKRN-TV yesterday, and it was one of the best conversations I’ve had in years. We mostly just told old war stories, but we also talked about how and why things have changed so much in the business of local news.

Mike noted that it was the success of Cap Cities that got the attention of Wall Street, and how that was what shifted industry attention to the bottom line. Before that happened, the primary concern of local news was covering the news. It spawned a creativity that’s missing today — one that didn’t have the barrier of cost thrown into the equation. That creativity was mostly expressed in an uncompromising attitude that refused to take “no” for an answer. And it’s not that we were necessarily spendthrifts. The point is that there was a flexibility at the General Manager level that is simply gone today.

As we noted in our chat, local news of 30 years ago pioneered all of the things that today’s news people take for granted. “We wrote the rules,” Mike said. And I’ve got to admit that the process of writing those rules was done amidst an incredible energy that lifted everyone. I woke up each day eager to get to work.

We had our problems. People haven’t changed. There’s a potential asshole behind every smile when you have a bunch of egomaniacs in the same room, but it just didn’t seem to matter as much back then. My first news director was a newspaper guy. Mike’s was an old radio guy. It was — honestly — all about the news.

I find that same wonderful energy today in the innovations being produced by the Internet. We’re still in the rule-writing stage here, and there’s nothing quite like it.

Broadcasting is so 20th century.

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