The Man’s Many Faces
Seems like I’ve spent most of my life working for the “Man.” The first “Man” was my dad. He paid me a couple bucks for cutting the grass. Over the years, the “Man’s” face kept changing; there was the head of the paint crew and Shorty, the electrician. For a couple summers, the “Man” was the steward on a construction project, then there were my days as a Teamster when the UPS manager taught me how to drive a Semi-truck.
The first ”Man” to give me a job after college was Lee Giles, the WISH-TV News Director who saw something in an eager rookie with no news experience. He hired me as a “trainee photographer.” That was back in 1978; he offered me $9,000 a year and I told him I was going to prove I was worth $10,000 and in six months he gave me a $1,500 raise. I be honest, I couldn’t believe someone was willing to pay me to take pictures. I like to think Lee had a pretty good eye for talent; he also gave Jane Pauley her first broadcasting job. I worked for him twice, for a total of twenty-five years.
Don’t Burn Bridges
While working for Lee, I learned the importance of not burning bridges. I left WISH-TV after three years because I wanted to work on long form pieces. I made a point of letting Lee know how much I appreciated the chance he’d taken on me and made it clear how much I enjoyed working for him, I just wanted to try my hand at a kind of storytelling that wasn’t being done at WISH.
The “Man” I went to work for was named George Hulcher. He supervised a magazine show at WHAS-TV in Louisville. He dreamed of bringing together a bunch of creative people, challenging them to put together the best possible local magazine show and then he got out of their way. Our show was called Louisville Tonight. It didn’t pay much but our name appeared at the beginning of every story on which we worked. Talk about giving you a sense of ownership! We were on salary but we often worked more than forty hours a week because it was “Our” show.
I spent a wonderful three years in Louisville before the business side of TV raised its ugly head. Even though we were the number one show in our time slot, the bean counters decided they could save money by replacing us with a syndicated show.
I had stayed in touch with Lee Giles, checking in a couple times a year. When I heard our show was slated for the axe, Lee was one of the first people I called. He’d been in TV since the early days and seemed to know everyone. (This was back in the pre-cable days when there were only three channels in every major market.)
To my total amazement, he said he was looking for a Chief Photographer and wondered if I’d be interested in returning to Indianapolis. Boy was I glad I hadn’t burned that bridge. Before Lee retired with the most longevity of any news director in the country, I’d added the title of News Operations Manager to my resume.
You Never Know Who’s Going to be the Man
A few years after Lee retired, I reached my thirty year mark at WISH and decided to take advantage of a buyout offer. For the last few years I’ve earned a living as a freelancer and teacher.
For my last thirteen years at WISH-TV, I spent an evening a week teaching a class in Broadcasting News for the Journalism Department at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Ironical, for all that time, I taught students to become what is now called a Backpack Journalist. (An aside: as I type this blog, I’m sitting in an airport waiting to return from a week of teaching seasoned reporters and anchors how to shoot and edit.)
While teaching for IUPUI, one of my best students was a kid named Joe Starlin. For him, I guess I became the “Man.” First he worked for me as a photography intern and then he made a liar out of me when I hired him as a full time photographer – I always told my students they would never get their first job in a top twenty-five market.
As a freelance field producer, I’ve had the chance to hire Joe a couple times but this year, he’s turned the tables on me. He’s hire
d me a couple times; once to help light a complicated shoot and another time to edit and run the second camera on a shoot. It just proves the old adage, “What goes around, comes a
round.” Or, put another way, “You never know who is going to become the “Man.” I’m sure glad I gave Joe a good grade.