Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dark Side Of The Moon

Dorothy had a Yellow Brick Road to take her to Oz.

But before she made it to the Emerald City, she survived a tornado, she found the bravery to make such a daunting journey, and she found three great partners to show her the way.

I always respected Dorothy, and I can definitely identify with some of the challenges she faced because my path to Local 12 came with its own frightening and unexpected developments.

I spent six years at the ABC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky before making my way to Cincinnati. I went from Tape Editor (bottom rung) to 6 pm producer (closer-to-the-top-rung) in that time span - and the experience really changed me.

It turned me into an egotistical, hard-swearing, grand stranding Know-It-All. I was aggressive, defensive and proud. My vernacular was of the four-lettered variety and I drank hard as an outlet to let go of all the stress and responsibility.

I'll own up to the actions of my past, but I can't help but think I was a product of my environment.

In those same six years, our newsroom weathered:
  • Three General Managers
  • Four News Directors
  • Three Executive Producers
  • Five main-anchor-team combinations

We were the last-place station in a one-horse town (okay, Lexington has a couple more horses than that), and it didn't appear that anything was going to let up at any time. The CBS affiliate was #1 and cornered the market on the old people and down home crowds. The NBC affiliate was #2 and quickly growing by strategically aiming for the college-aged and young professional demographics.


We heavily campaigned an On Your Side brand that helped foster viewership in every trailer park from Paintsville to Pikeville.

Employees began taking management suggestions with skepticism. For all we knew, we were dealing with the flavor of the month, so we had a hard time taking stock in the demands of the moment.

Enter a general manager (to this day I think they should flood the PA system with the Imperial Death March whenever he walks through the halls of his place of employment) who had an utter disregard for humanity and a complete dedication to the eradication of man's spirit.

There's a long list of twisty events that unfolded during those days (one example: when was the last time your boss took an image of your company brand and set it on fire in a staff meeting, proceeding to fervently stomp on the logo as it smoldered in a trash can??) but it's all water under the bridge for the most part.

That's the tornado part of this story.

And that's when the company and I decided to part ways, putting me just two weeks away from the unemployment line.

Now, don't worry, because this tale has a happy ending. But for a good, long time I really thought I was going to have to survive on those unemployment checks and a piecemeal of a babysitting jobs I managed to string together.

And I guess that's when I had the bravery (and faith) to follow the journey of my destiny.

That's also when I ran into my own scarecrow/tin man/cowardly lion.

I was in a bar surprise, surprise when I came across an old friend whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Wilhelm and I previously never worked together - we had a mutual friend and plenty of good memories involving UK football games, dancing on coffee tables and a hilarious night of free cover at a local bar for 15 of our closest friends.


There I was, sipping on a cold pint on a Saturday night at McCarthy's in Lexington when I ran smack-dab into Wilhelm.

He asked me what I was up to and I told him, with a chuckle, uh, a week from unemployment.

And Wilhelm kindly offered up the nugget that his station in Cincinnati was looking for a Morning Show producer.

There is no other way to explain that coincidence than divine intervention. I truly believe God put Wilhelm and me in the same corner of the same bar in the same part of Downtown Lexington for a purpose. And to this day, you can say what you will about the man, I will always be grateful to Wilhelm for his kindness that evening.

So that was a Saturday night.

The assistant news director in Cincinnati called me the following Tuesday to talk down and dirty about a job. He asked me to come up and meet the news director that afternoon and discuss the possibility involving their opening.

I was so thankful for that meeting - I had passed up an opening at this same station two years earlier and didn't want to make the same mistake.

One thing led to another and basically I found myself blogging about unemployment one day and blogging about a new job three days later.

I guess Dorothy had the Yellow Brick Road to take her to Oz. I had Interstate 75 to take me to Cincinnati.

The journey is full of an amazing series of events that led to a magical destination, but I must admit I sometimes think the lessons learned in the end are far more important than the bumps along the way.

1) There is no place like home. I wasn't born in Cincinnati, but I spent my childhood in this town and can't help but appreciate being in an environment that I've known since I was six years old. I had no idea at the time how personally enriching a trip back home would be for me. I can't begin to express my gratitude for an opportunity to work in a town that I am more than a bit sentimental about.

2) (and this is the important one) I always had the power to come home. Glenda tells Dorothy that only she had the power to go home, she just had to look inside herself and discover her heart's desire. I found the answers to all my problems inside my own heart, and all those answers were telling me I could survive and thrive in this new opportunity north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Thrive? I'd like to think so.

At least I can say I don't face that egotistical, hard swearing, hard drinking chick when I look in the mirror these days.

I'm far more happier than I was back in the day, and I can't help but think it's because this journey to Cincinnati changed me - immensely.

No place like home, indeed.


Chris F. said...

I have a particular fondness for Cincinnati and it goes beyond just being a Bengals fan. Being a southerner, I probably identify more with the Midwest than other parts of the country. Cincinnati is the one city that I've visited on multiple occasions and know it better than any other in the region. My first full-time job was at Scripps and I'm cautiously optimistic (you have to be in order to get by these days) that I can land some position with the Bengals should they be looking at scouts at some point.

The Notorious N.A.T said...

Congrats on your new adventures! This story mirrors much of my own with completely different scenarios. Sometimes you have to wait for life to smack you in the ass to make you move ahead to where you're supposed to be.

Can't wait to hear about the new job! GOOD LUCK SISTER!

Chris F. said...

"Sometimes you have to wait for life to smack you in the ass to make you move ahead to where you're supposed to be."

nat, my thoughts exactly!