My first radio news director, the great Jerry Heller, retired some time ago. At the end of the year, my first television news director, Jim DePury, joins the list.
Stand by for story time.
I tried a couple of times, in the 80's, to get a job, at the old Channel 22. It didn't work. A couple of auditions weren't awful, but they didn't scream "hire me" either. I had the news chops. I had been on the radio for several years, but television is a different animal.
Finally, something came along I for which I was suited. The station was starting 30 second hourly news updates. They needed a guy for Saturday, and I was it. Jim and I discussed the concept when I dropped by the station one night to pick up a friend for a social engagement. A few people who worked there said nice things about me (shocking, I know) and I was on the part time payroll.
My first day was on St. Patrick's Parade Day of 1990. Six months later, Jim offered a full time job. I declined. He understood. Another full time position opened up in September of 1991, and I took it.
Lesson to kids just getting in the business: take what little you're given, do the best you can, and you will eventually move up.
Jim was very smart with his TV newbie. I was assigned to work with one of the veteran photographers. There were times I tried things that didn't quite work. Jim would ask what I was attempting to do. I'd explain. He'd offer suggestions. Jim taught. I learned. He was the first to drill the "tight writing" thing in to my head. Best lesson ever. When you signed on to the computer system the station used at the time, a message board popped up. Message number one was "tight writing = top casts."
Jim left the station several months after I went full time, and we kept in touch. From Scranton, he put a news operation on the air at WPMT in Harrisburg. I believe there was a "best newscast" Emmy in their first year. That's amazing. By the way, WPMT is now one of WNEP's sister stations, and we frequently trade video and information.
In 1996, I was offered the job of full time morning anchor at the old Channel 22, which was under new ownership. I was happy being the fill-in anchor guy. I declined. They weren't pleased. I was shown the door a few weeks later. I can write a book on that experience, and one day, I might. It won't be pretty.
I called Jim in Harrisburg to do a little networking. He explained that he had two on maternity leave and another on vacation. He needed reporting help. I was pulling in to the station's parking lot a few days later. In fact, I had the lead story on my first night there, a truck carrying pesticides flipped on Interstate 81 near Carlisle.
The proof of friendship wasn't necessary, but I really appreciated it. I don't know if you've ever lost a job, but it's not fun. It's quite a kick in the teeth. Getting that little freelance gig from Jim helped reestablish my self esteem. Mood improved. Better attitude. I owe the man a lot.
I should have stayed a freelancer longer, but a full time job opened around here. I applied. An offer was made. I took it, in one of the worst personal decisions I ever made. Oh well. It happens. Things eventually worked out rather nicely for me. Don't worry. It will all be in the book.
For the last few years, Jim has been managing the newsroom for our friends down the street. He leaves at the end of the year.
I was lucky to have Jim DePury for a boss, and I'm still lucky to have him as a friend.
Jim, enjoy your retirement. Thank you for all you've done for me.