As 1998 rolls to a close, I roll up to a new position. After four years, I'm finally off of weekends, and just in time to make the annual KRGV Christmas party on South Padre Island. Our generous owners are not only splurging for an evening of fun with an open bar by the surf, they're paying for hotel rooms so nobody has an excuse to drive home skunked. Things are definitely looking up, including my paycheck.
But after a month in my new shift, I realize I'm inheriting a whole new set of issues, ones I didn't have to deal with while associate producing, when I retreated to the control room, built the show graphics and stayed out of the fray. Now I'm handling logistics and egos and crises, along with a new news director. Mr. D has taken a well-earned retirement. I know I want out. Soon.
I phone the headhunter I've worked with in the past, who is all too glad to hear I'm back in play. "Great! Send us a tape." I do, but it's August before I get another nibble, and not from the headhunter.
WINK in Ft. Myers, Florida comes calling after a referral from a college advisor who's helping hook up producers with stations needing them. It's a longtime powerhouse CBS affiliate. They ask for one of my tapes, which I send, but I also get one of theirs. News Director Lisa (name changed) and I talk on the phone a few more times, and she picks my brain for advice.
"I have a producer who loves live shots," she says. "But some of them just take so long."
I give several suggestions, including just signing out instead of letting the anchor ask a question. Lisa gets more interested the more we talk. She likes hearing my thoughts. She also talks to Jenny on the down low, asking her what she thought my weaknesses were.
"Sometimes he tries to do too much," she tells her.
"Oh, I do that all the time!" Lisa replies.
Meanwhile, the new KRGV news director seems to know I'm sniffing around. He asks if I'm leaving. I tell him, no, and that's the truth. At least, not yet. I have a feeling Lisa called him, too.
A few more weeks pass, and I have little time to think about WINK. Hurricane Bret comes through and floods us with stories, even though it spares us the worst. Then comes a hurricane special I have to co-produce. The new ND blows his stack a few times, at least once in my direction. I know more than ever, I want out.
Jenny is reassuring through all of this. She knows I'm on borrowed time, even though she reassures me that she and others still have faith in me.
Lisa calls back in early September offering me more than an interview trip. I've got the job if I want it. The pay is roughly equal to what I'm making now, but there's issues. First, the benefits leave a lot to be desired, including the lack of a dental plan. And Jenny has some inside info, having worked in that market herself. "There's just not a lot for young people there," she tells me. And I haven't even seen this station on the inside or got a feel for the newsroom environment. I'm risking trading one set of undesirable circumstances for another. I could get lucky, or I could get burned.
I explain the situation to my parents, and even though the Queen Mother doesn't seem to understand it all at first, they understand to move up successfully in broadcasting, everything has to move up.
I politely pass on WINK. Other stations nibble at me and tapes go out, but the process goes no further than that.
Then, in November, I get a call in the newsroom from a news director in Tucson, in what will be my ticket out...
TO BE CONTINUED...