We had the great fortune of taking in the Associated Press Awards in Harrisburg. WILK won numerous honors, including a first place award for newscast for Bud Brown (please don’t tell him I mentioned it because his obvious dominance is not something he likes anyone to acknowledge), two awards for best talk shows for Corbett and Nancy/Webster, awards for continuing coverage, breaking news and play by play. It’s a nice morale booster and the food was pretty good to boot.
I had the delight of sitting with our students from King’s College, who won two awards in the professional category, making me quite proud as their on campus supervisor. Our college station, WRKC, decided to re-institute news coverage in September and we’ve already won an SPJ Award and the two AP awards. I told them at the beginning that there would be trophies, but I never expected so many, so fast. However, they are exceptional students who have a great command of their future. In fact, they already implemented a host of changes they learned at AP workshops on Saturday, making me believe the future of our industry in good hands. Surprisingly, those giving the seminars said there will be 82 broadcasting jobs available this year in Pennsylvania, and many will want them. I think that was quite the eye-opener.
One of the highlights of the night was a speech delivered by Dick Hoxworth, a long time employee of WGAL-TV, Lancaster, one of the most aggressive and honored stations in the state. Mr. Hoxworth, with his blue blazer and stylish white hair, epitomes a generation of newscasters who didn’t let a lack of technology stand in their way of delivering the news in a professional and timely manner. He talked about the teletype bells going off to warn the newsroom hands that something important was happening, only to be foiled by a lack of paper in the box below the machine or a shabby ribbon that didn’t print anything. He talked about cameramen shooting film, which took 20 minutes to develop, and news delivered without the aid of teleprompters. He talked of typewriters and smoked-filled newsrooms, bustling with the anticipation of a world in motion.
I was also amazed that my career has included cart machines and teletypes, as well as notebooks and cassette tapes. When he talked about carrying a pocket full of dimes for that rush to the phone, I remembered a handful of quarters in my purse and the sprint for the courthouse phone bank in an attempt to beat the spirited WARM News team, something that was a real chore because those folks were focused.
He also said some things that will never change if young reporters are properly trained by their mentors. Mr. Hoxworth said Saturday turns into Sunday, and the news just keeps on moving. So, you’re only as good as your work of the moment, and you can never rest on your achievements, but only hope to have more in the future. He said that accuracy is the hallmark of a good reporter, and that he would rather be second and right than first and wrong.
He also said every time a reporter makes a mistake, part of his/her credibility is diminished and cannot be reclaimed.
I wish I could have spent time with Mr. Hoxworth during his career. I can imagine him as a fastidious protector of the right to a free press and a guardian of the profession which he clearly loves. But, I can only hope that those who have the privilege and joy of watching the next generation of reporters emphasizes that even though the technology moves fast, the principles and practices of the business should remain the same.