Two weeks to go….
I graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1983.
It was so long ago, that we still used manual typewriters.
It was so long ago, that we still cut video on RM450s. (wait…some newsrooms still do that…)
My first job was as a PA with WNET/13 in New York. Except WNET, the PBS station for New York is actually licensed in Newark, New Jersey. Someone, somewhere in the early 1960s did this. So although everyone thinks of Channel 13 as being very Manhattan, (and it has large studios in midtown), its license is really for New Jersey.
As a result, one of the unsung jobs at WNET/13 (like the guy who keeps coal going into the furnace on a steamship) is protecting the license. So, I was quite surprised to find on my first day of work that I was reporting not to W. 58th Street, but rather to Newark, a town I had never visited.
The Newark Operation was the handicapped stepchild of Channel 13; left in the attic to starve slowly to death and only brought out when the relatives asked. This, in a strange way, gave me enormous freedom. I was also incredibly fortunate to have a boss who was not only a total incompetent, but who believed his primary work responsibility was eating lunch and reading The New York Post, a task which took him most of the day.
So I was left to my own devices, and working with a very good reporter, Marty Goldensohn, who had come from NPR and would soon return to make his career there, wandered up and down New Jersey for 4 years making a documentary film a week on my own. We were nominated, I believe, for an astonishing 11 Emmys, (I think we won 5), and of course, no one ever took away the license.
But more than that, I got a great education in New Jersey culture, politics, art, geography and just about everything else the Garden State has to offer.
So what an astonishing shock, when some 25 years later (hard to believe), I found myself back in Newark, at the offices of the Star Ledger, taking that venerable state-wide paper from whom I had stolen so many stories so long ago – into video and television.
New Jersey is unique in that it has no television network of its own. New York in the north and Philly in the south dominate the airwaves. But Jersey is a state rich in stories, people, culture, history and much more. It deserves better coverage. And now the paper is going to fill that vacuum.
We’re putting the newsroom in the newsroom. We’re going to come live from the newspaper’s own newsroom, and the multi-million dollar set designers that CBS or NBC hire could not have imagined or built a better ‘set’ for news. Desk after desk after desk or real reporters… really reporting! Desks piled high (sometimes a foot or more) with newspapers and books and coffee cups and God only knows what else. A real hive of activity.
This, obviously, is where it is happening. So this is where it is going to happen from (not to put the preposition at the end of the sentence). And our anchor, Brian Donnahue, is a real newspaper reporter – not some hair and teeth ‘on air presenter’. He is real Jersey, and he’s not going to ‘anchor’. It’s actually more like a daily blog – on air, with video – shot by the journalists at the Star Ledger.
We’re still piloting, but we’re far enough along now that I can tell you it is unlike anything you have ever seen before on TV news.
And it works.
So, like we say in the tv news biz…. standby….