An Old Dog Learns New Tricks

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I immersed myself in my work. By the time Chris was born, Group W was involved in "all news-all the time" at two of its stations, WINS, New York and KYW, Philadelphia. It was a radio format that was developing in several places ... and our company and CBS were at the forefront of the movement. The stations played no music ... carried no entertainment shows ... just newscasts 24 hours a day.

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, the Group W news bureau was gradually turning into a global news operation. I was the operations manager. On weekends, for awhile I also was doing some reporting from Washington ... using the airname of Michael Christopher. I was edging closer to being a newscaster. It had been my ambition since I first joined Group W in 1960. It was going to happen but not in Washington.

In 1968, Group W extended its all-news format to another station, KFWB, Los Angeles. Like the other Group W all-news stations, KFWB would soon need to fill a job they called Executive Producer. Early in 1969, KFWB's new General Manager, Art Schreiber, approached me and asked if I would take the job. Art had been my boss for awhile in the news bureau. He wanted a guy who understood journalism, engineering, business problems and more. In short, he was looking for a "jack of all trades". It was a perfect job for me and I took it.

We sold the house in Potomac. In July, Geneva, Mike, Chris and I moved to California. Remember earlier I mentioned that my path would lead to Los Angeles. Well, finally it had.

A radio station is a different breed of cat from a network or news bureau ... as I would quickly discover. It had been a LONG time since I worked at any radio station. And never one in a major market like Los Angeles. So the job as Executive Producer at KFWB was partly a job and partly a fast track learning experience.

The backbone of the station ... the news department ... was under the management of Herb Humphries, a man I had known, liked and respected for several years. I first met him when he was at WINS, New York. To this day, Herb is one of my closest friends. When Carolyn and I married he was my best man.

Besides programming, a station has other important facets; sales, engineering, promotion, labor relations, and community relations. As one of the Department heads, I had a couple of direct responsibilities ... producing public service announcements and promoting our news programming with announcements on the air.

It was soon obvious that I would be a "jack of all trades" more than I dreamed. I won't even get into all the projects that occupied my time. But one did more than all the others. Something called "sales traffic" which has nothing to do with reporting on freeway conditions.

One of the most vexing problems at many stations involved traffic --- the scheduling of commercials and keeping track of how much advertising time was left to sell. The amount of detail is enormous. Women traditionally did that work and they frequently had nervous breakdowns doing it. There were two within my first year at KFWB. Group W stations were all struggling with the problem and getting nowhere.

Enter your Grandpa Charlie ... the Jack of All Trades.

Computers in 1970 weren't the compact devices you know today. They existed, however, and we contacted a man with a computer program he believed could solve our problem. He needed a station to try it out on. On my recommendation, we became that station. I won't pretend it was smooth sailing ... it wasn't. One traffic manager quit and my personal secretary, Vickie Young, took on the job with my help. Another lady was struggling on the job. We needed a replacement for her. One afternoon, the answer to our prayers --- Carolyn Mae Bordner --- walked in the door looking for work. She had worked in traffic at several stations and she had a photographic memory when it came to remembering numbers and details. Finally, she had a pleasant personality and worked well with Vickie. It was the spring of 1970 when the elements of our traffic department were finally in place. Traditionally, a radio station Sales Manager runs the traffic department. I convinced the General Manager to change that arrangement and let me run it. By the end of the year, the system was well on its way to working. And nobody had a nervous breakdown.

There was another cloud on the KFWB horizon --- labor trouble. Art had fired Herb Humphries and brought in a man from KYW, Philadelphia. There were corporate politics involved in all this. Whatever the reason, Herb was a good news director and the newsmen in the station knew it. They resented his firing bitterly. The timing could not have been worse. Our labor contract with the announcers' union, AFTRA, was expiring. Contract talks bogged down. The angry union men wanted a strike and they got it. On May 11, 1971, they walked out the door and stayed out for thirteen weeks.

With our regular staff on the picket line, management, including me, had to step in to keep the station on the air. All of that summer, I was a morning anchorman on KFWB in addition to my regular management job. I wanted to be a newscaster ... not that way, though.