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When Adversity Strikes Broadcasters

By Ken Foote, CBSDFW.COM

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These past few days remind me why I love being in broadcasting over these past 40 years. When adversity hits, whether it’s the weather or some other force majeure event, broadcasters have always risen to the challenge to keep things going at home while helping others.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last week, it not only impacted millions of people and their homes, but also those radio and television outlets that the public depends on for news and information in emergency situations. Our company, CBS, operates nine (9) television stations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. It also operates twenty five (25) radio stations in those markets (not counting our HD radio stations), many of which are all-news or news/talk stations. These stations and their employees felt a sizable impact from the storm, yet they all did their job by being on the job and doing whatever it takes to serve the company and their communities, including raising money to go to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

My first boss in television, Gene Bohi, related a story to me years ago when I was working in Greensboro NC. In the early 1960’s, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) went on strike at our Chicago station, WBBM CBS2. IBEW represented a significant number of employees that supported the day to day operations of the station, and a labor strike of this magnitude was felt all over the station. Gene was a young Assistant Promotions Manager at that time and, knowing how he was raised as the son of a Methodist minister, he knew what needed to been done. During the time IBEW was on strike, he pitched in and did whatever it took to keep WBBM on the air without the public knowing there were anything negative going on. When the strike was settled, CBS Chairman and CEO William S. Paley flew to Chicago to deliver bonus checks for those people who went above and beyond the call of duty. Gene received a check for $5000. Today that would be by some financial measures the equivalent of around $40,000!

When I was in Greensboro as a 24 year old production assistant, I got a call one afternoon from Gary Robinson, our program director at WGHP. He told me that a massive winter storm was moving into the Piedmont area where we were and that a good number of key employees would not be able to get in to keep the station on the air. He needed me to come in and plan on staying at the station for the duration of the storm. I did everything I was asked to do: run camera, audio, floor manager, receptionist, you name it, I did it. The management took notice of that. Nine months later, I was promoted to Director Of Sales Development for WGHP TV. Nothing more than being there when you are needed and doing it without complaining. Just doing it because it was the right thing to do.

See you next time.

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