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I was involved in on-air activities at Channel 10 when Douglas Edwards was CBS’ News Anchor. I witnessed Ed Murrow’s evolution from radio newsman to perhaps the most powerful journalist in our nation. I visited Studio A for many of Chet Long’s Looking With Long broadcasts — the very first dinner hour news in our market.
In 1960 I started my professional relationship with WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio — the anchor station in what has evolved into the Dispatch Broadcast Group. I was 25 years old when Chief Announcer Bill Pepper hired me — and anxious to explore the medium and carve out my piece of the American Dream.
I’m but one of thousands of men and women who pioneered Television broadcasting. The list of those who shared in defining the most powerful communication medium for five decades is long. Many are gone today, but well remembered by those who knew them.
I was lucky, for in my youth I first connected with WBNS-TV as a [ high school ] volunteer shortly after the station went on the air in 1949. Back then, under rules promulgated by Chief Engineer Lester Nafzger, I wasn’t even permitted to enter the control room.
Nafgzer ran a tight ship — one that extended the station’s penchant for being the very best to include its technical standards and practices. Under Les Nafzger, even the camera cables were wiped clean after every use.
In 1957 I went west — to Hollywood — in search of stardom and fortune. When neither was to be found, I returned home. Before long I landed a part-time job working for Dave Ayers at the Ohio State University’s educational television station, WOSU-TV.
Dear Mr. McCormick
Chances are you do not remember me ( Charles Legg ), but I have found memories of you and so many of the people you worked with at WBNS Television here in Columbus, Ohio.
I was a young amateur astronomer ( 13 – 15 years old ) in the early to mid sixties and a member of the Columbus Astronomical Society ( CAS ). You hosted a program, that showcased people, young and old, and their hobbies.
I was fortunate to appear on your program two or three times — which was very exciting for me. You asked me questions about my interest in astronomy, how telescopes worked, and about other activities in the CAS.
After all these years I still remember those interviews and how pleasant and courteous you were toward me. You treated me like a friend, not just a nerdy kid you had to put up with for your job
Bill Pepper’s full-time job offer came in 1960. My life changed for the better the day I reported for work at Channel 10. I did not know it at the time, but I found a new teacher in John Haldi — the keeper of WBNS-TV’s flame and final arbiter of the station’s standards, practices and behavioral expectations.
I was at the right place at the right time — no doubt about it — for I had been involved in on-air activities at Channel 10 when Douglas Edwards was still CBS evening News presenter. I witnessed Ed Murrow’s evolution from radio newsman to perhaps the most powerful journalist in our nation. And as a very young man I was present in Studio A for many of Chet Long’s Looking With Long broadcasts — the very first dinner-hour news in our market.
Even while in high school I lurked behind the camera to watch my future boss and veteran WBNS radio personality Bill Pepper pioneer the station’s late night [ 11 pm ] news broadcast. It didn’t take long for my long time friend and mentor Joe Holbrook to invent, and then evolve, the concept of television meteorological news programming.
By the time I jumped from radio into television at Channel 10 radio was no longer the nation’s primary broadcast media. I was at the right place at the right time. The future was in television. Not just for me, but for Walter Cronkite, Betty Furness, Lucille Ball, Rod Serling and James Arness.
While at Channel 10 I came to know and work with Don Riggs, Tom Gleba, Bill Nuzum, Patricia Wilson, Jeanne Shea, and venerable and wonderful Bob Marvin [ Flippo the clown ]. On one occasion I appeared with talk show pioneer Ruth Lyons and sidekick Bob Braun on their regional 50-50 Club broadcasts from Crosley Square in Cincinnati.
I was lucky to have known and worked with so many talented people who lived their professional lives when television was live and programming was almost exclusively community oriented.
Like so many others in early television, I worked in a variety of on-air positions.
I especially enjoyed the ones that permitted me to travel the Central Ohio roads to locate interesting people, places and things that I could record and share with viewers on a daily variety program on which I appeared with Roy Briscoe and Martha Myers.
Roy and Martha were the principal on-air talent on that show, so I was assigned to produce, shoot and present feature stories about interesting people, places and events in our 33 county coverage area.
I’ve witnessed five decades of change in the medium and the people who man it.
Unlike the limitations of live television, today’s HDTV technology delivers free over-the-air television that’s every bit as clear and colorful as the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.
From my perspective the improvements in picture quality, accompanied by pristine 5.1 channel audio, revolutionized the most powerful and ubiquitous means of communication.
Technically, today’s High Definition television broadcaster is far removed from the days of Image-Orthicon cameras, fuzzy images and multi-path distortion. But when it comes to matters of appearance, stage presence and dramatic gesticulation today’s on air personalities are comparatively finely honed instruments.
Anyone who might think the early years in American television were framed by its technological limitations didn’t see it from the perspective of those of who who gave it birth and nurtured both media and nation.
From the first time I saw a fuzzy black and white test pattern in 1949 until I retired from television in the mid 1970s there was a single driving vision in American broadcasting — public service to our communities and our nation.
We were every bit as much a business in those years as today, but station owners operated their business as if the viewer was a friend and neighbor, not a demographic figment. What we said mattered, for in our communities our station had one of only three immensely powerful voices.
The Wolfe Family, who owned the Columbus Dispatch and two radio stations in our market, were responsible, community-oriented people — especially in their television operations.
Every station had someone who oversaw programming content. At Channel 10 it was John Haldi — one of the most creative people in the medium. John could be stubborn and hard-nosed, for it was his job to make WBNS-TV one of the top ten CBS affiliates in the nation.
It was also John Haldi who branded us as serious and responsible broadcasters who respected our audience. Our kids programming was constructive, not exploitative. Our news programming was serious and responsible. Under Haldi WBNS-TV local programming was highly creative and reflective of community values and ideals.
By my choice I worked a seven day week. I produced and hosted an early morning Educational News Program – brought interesting people, places, and things to a daily mid-afternoon variety program – produced and hosted a daily early evening children’s show – served as back up weather caster for Joe Holbrook when Joe was on vacation – assisted with news documentary programs and pulled a staff announcing schedule.
I made many life-long friends during my years at WBNS-TV, for those were among the very best years of my life.
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