It was another occasion for celebration. Popular former KVUE TV (ABC) anchor Margie Reedy was in Austin with her daughter checking out The University of Texas for graduate school. At the same time, other former KVUE news staffers were in from out of town just for fun. It turned into another reunion of sorts, a celebration of the award-winning, ratings-reigning era running from roughly the early 1980s to the early 1990s.
It was before the surge of the Internet. Further, cable and satellite alternatives weren’t very attractive. So, about one-third of Austin area viewers made an appointment with KVUE 24 Action News at 6 p.m. During that decade, KVUE created Austin’s first 5 p.m. newscast. It was an innovative, heady, and fun time to be in TV news.
Seldom am I seen at parties, but I dragged myself out of Southwest Austin to the downtown hotel to share in the moments and stories from some 25 years ago. As I am wont to do, I found myself stepping back and looking at all of the smiling faces. It came to me that only a few of us are still in “the business”. Margie moved on from Austin before ending up anchoring in Boston, MA. She left TV a few years ago. She said, it was time.
It is a common story nowadays. Baby boomers are being bought out. Others’ contracts are not renewed. Some are able to leave on their own terms like Rebecca Rodriguez who last reported in Dallas, although her husband is still in broadcast journalism. More and more, however, the middle-aged (for lack of a better term) journalists are leaving the room. Just take a look at the headlines in TV Spy almost daily. And, with these seasoned pros, decades of experience, history, contacts, and goodwill leave the room with them.
More and more, newsrooms are filled with bright young faces. To be sure, they are talented and educated. But they cannot immediately replace what is being lost.
A friend and former Austin reporter, now in business for herself in Houston, had an interesting take on TV News recently. “My biggest regret about leaving TV is that I never had the chance to report as a mom,” She says. “I think it is rather ironic actually that most of today's journalists have never been parents or … seen the world when they peak, and then when that life experience hits, they're off the air! Kind of strange and sad,” She said that she seldom watches TV news now—it frustrates her.
It is said that TV mirrors society. If that is so, society must be getting a lot younger. Only in Austin, Texas do most of the anchors seem to stick around. And some, like Leslie Rhode on KXAN TV (NBC), leave and come back. They are, however, often surrounded by a different generation.
My eyes turned back to the gathering at the hotel. It was great seeing them all again. My biggest surprise of the evening was when Rebecca Rodriguez told me that she was one of my students at Southwest Texas State University (Now Texas State University) in the early 1980s. My biggest laugh of the night was when Carolyn Mungo, now in news management in Houston, declared, “We never worked together, but I feel like I know you. I’ve heard all the stories!” Sure enough, she and Wendy Erickson, with whom I never worked either, recited some. My biggest surprise of the night was the appearance of former KVUE news director Bob Buckalew, now owner of Buckalew Media. He shows up at fewer parties than I do.
It was a fun evening, worthy of reflection.
© Jim McNabb, 2009