The webmaster of this site, Brad Haven, is always challenging me to provide a picture with my columns. He has explained to me how a picture can help illuminate a point. He has even sent me an article about how a picture is worth more than a thousand words.
He’s right. Pictures definitely help when you’re trying to tell a story.
I believe I have found another reason to look for a photograph to accompany each of my columns. So taking Brad’s advice from early in this assignment, I went back to my photographs.
After the most recent post on my eight years as an altar boy, I struggled with what the next subject should be. I really don’t have anything to say about the US getting Bin Laden; I’m satisfied that justice was delivered.
I could weigh in on Mother’s Day, but by the time this is posted, the holiday will have passed. Maybe next year. That left me searching for the next idea.
When you encounter writer’s block, go to the pictures. And that’s what leads me to this photograph I found in my career scrapbook the other day.
The photo shows a very young Steve Newvine (on the right) trying to write a television news story from the newsroom at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York. The year was 1979. The man on the left was my first television news boss Mark Williams. Mark had been elevated to News Director only a couple of months prior to the time this photograph was taken. I was his first hire.
Fresh out of college (Syracuse University) I interviewed for the job during my finals. I remember not being so sure I impressed him in the interview, but I had an audition tape (a video tape of stories I produced while at a college internship at another TV station).
Mark saw enough potential there is put me on his short list. He promised to get back to me by the end of the week.
He called me again on a Thursday night and said he had to run a few things past his general manager. He said he would call me Friday. I hung up the phone, announced to my parents that I wouldn’t be going to sleep that night as I worried about whether I would actually be offered the job.
I did fall asleep later that night (probably early in the morning of that Friday). I stayed close to the phone all day Friday. At six-thirty PM, someone in my family suggested I go outside for a walk. I resigned myself to thinking that maybe Mark got caught up in his work of the week. I put on my sneakers and headed out the door.
Then the phone rang. It was Mark. He offered me the job. I accepted. He asked when I could start, and I said “Monday!” We wished each other a good weekend. I hung up the phone, hugged my family, and started packing for Binghamton.
I said my goodbyes to my grandparents, withdrew my life savings up to that point (about $500), and left for my first paying job in television news that weekend.
As the picture shows, I reported and wrote news for the station. Mark and I, along with four or five other staff people, made up the news department. We had no state or national wire service.
Mark had a lot of contacts throughout the viewing area that he routinely called to get tips on potential local news stories. I learned from him and the others how to produce a news story, how to assemble an entire newscast, how to shoot video when my photographer couldn’t accompany me on a story, and how to connect with the local community.
During my year and a half at WICZ-TV, I did every on-air job the station had including news, weather, sports, talk show host, and outdoors sports reporter.
Station finances in 1980 forced a layoff that spared my job, but sent a chilling message to everyone that we better cover our bets and prepare for even tougher times.
I started looking for a new job shortly after returning from my honeymoon in July. In October, I left the station for WAAY-TV in Hunstville, Alabama. I stayed in television news for another fourteen years.
I’m glad I found that old picture from thirty-two years ago in my scrapbook. I exchange an occasional email from the man who hired me.
Some of the radio and television broadcasters in the Binghamton market have formed a reunion club. They host a dinner and awards event every year. One of these days, I’m going to attend.
You never forget your first job. I had lots of jobs throughout high school and college that helped pay college costs and other expenses, but the first job the field that I trained in will always remain a special memory.
And I have a picture to remind me of just how special that time was.
Steve Newvine was a broadcast journalist from 1979 through 1994. He lives and works in Merced.