My early career

That First TV Paycheck

“I got a job!”  Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings when I received the call informing me that I’d been hired to work at television station.  After sending out countless resumes all over the country, someone wanted to actually pay me to work in an industry I’d been dreaming about since I was a kid.

My quest for a job in broadcast journalism was certainly discouraging at times.  Check out this rejection letter I received from my current employer.  There were dozens of others like them from stations in Eugene, Oregon,  to Rochester, Minnesota to Wilmington, North Carolina and all points in between.



Let’s rewind.   It was the winter of 1988 when I was hired at WMUR-TV, the ABC station in Manchester, New Hampshire as an assignment editor,  an entry level position that paid entry level wages: $13,500 a year.   I actually made more money bartending, so I kept that restaurant job at the Pillar House in Newton, Massachusetts on a part time basis and finished my unpaid internship at WPRI-TV in Providence, where I had learned a great deal about the television news business that prepared me to move to the Granite State.

My internship was key to getting my first paid job.   As an intern I worked all sorts of crazy hours and said yes to everything I was asked to do.   I had regretted not pursuing a television job right after college, and I as a result I was the oldest in the intern pool, but maybe the most serious and the hungriest,  and that paid dividends later as I applied for jobs that paid; anything!

An assignment editor essentially decides which news stories to cover and assigns them to  crews and manages their whereabouts and news gathering progress through the day.  As soon as I joined WMUR,  I researched stories, made tons of phone calls, watched the wire services, listened to police scanners, and read every newspaper in the state from cover to cover.

Within a month of starting at Channel 9,  my immediate supervisor left and I was forced into his job.  After a trial run, I was promoted to assignment manager. It meant more responsibility, longer hours (7AM to 7PM,) calls at home at all hours, and I hired others to staff the assignment desk. The new title came with a raise, so I found an apartment in Manchester, after living with my grandmother for a while in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  I also retired as a bartender.

While grateful for the opportunity to be a newsroom manager and a path to upper management that I was told I was suited for,  I remained focused on my goal of becoming a reporter. After my shift was up for the day, I often headed out into the field with a crew to learn how the reporter and photographer covered a story. I did my own on-camera work on the side, and in my spare time, put together reports of my own for a resume tape.  Pics below.

I also did some practicing on the anchor desk. I was awful. As a rookie, I had weird facial expressions, and my pronunciations of some words were terrible. I owe a debt of gratitude to my news director, Miles Resnick, who coached me and gave me some words of wisdom: lose the Boston accent, and cut off the mullet.

I did both, and after sending out about 20 resume tapes to entry level anchor-reporter jobs around the nation, I got a few job offers. I was off to Rockford, Illinois to begin a new chapter in my life.


Categories: My early career

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