10th Year Tele-versary: A Career Is Born

Posted by scottstead on Jun 9, 2008 in Blogging, DC Social Media, Life, Television
10 years of tv
on his way to 50

ca·reer /kəˈrɪər/ [kuh-reer]
1. an occupation or profession, esp. one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework: He sought a career as a lawyer.

One’s lifework. Wow. That about sums it up. 10 years – in television – as of today. I warn you this is going to be somewhat of an autobiographical post looking at how I got here, what I’ve learned, and where I want to be 10 years from now. Ok, maybe I won’t look that far ahead, as I prefer not to, because in looking back it’ll be here before I finish this post. After all the fourth definition of career is, “a course, esp. a swift one.” That it has been.

Ten years ago today I walked, bewildered and excited at having nabbed a job at WTRF TV, Wheeling, W.V. – into the gaping maw of the TV monster that has consumed the last ten years of my life. Oh dramatics, I must’ve picked that up from the headline writers. All joking aside, I started from the bottom up. I ran camera. I pedded up and down, I trucked left and right, I zoomed, I gave the anchors their countdowns, we joked in between segments, sometimes we accidentally leaked our jokes over the air. I made a lot of friends. I bragged about my job to my friends. It was a big deal in Wheeling, population 30,000. I moved up, I ran graphics, put in the chryons, took out the chyrons, developed “looks” for different shows, I edited pieces tape to tape on DVC Pro tapes, I ran audio, I worked a lot of overtime, I had a lot of fun. But that day came where my course load in school and the amount of hours I was working went head to head – and school won out. But I couldn’t put the camera down.

For the next two years I DJ’d local bars and restaurants, weddings and private parties – all the while working freelance for the NASA Center for Educational Technologies (and carrying 21 credit hours). I had the pleasure of working along side some great folks there (Richard Cain, Matt Wolfe, etc.) making educational videos for the NASA C.E.T., promotional videos for Orrick Law Center, and documenting visits of folks like Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. It was a lot of fun being a part of the full creative process from concept, to shooting, to editing, and posting. I learned a lot and I tip my hat to the guys that showed me the ropes with lighting, non-linear editing and the likes.

And with that – I graduated. Wait, no, let’s step back a minute. I can’t help but mention how my education has influenced my love for media/film/video before I move on. My family ran a print shop out of our basement – an addition my dad built onto the house with his bare hands and the help of a neighbor with a backhoe. I remember my parents staying up working all hours of the night to get a job out the door the next day. Local high schools, businesses, Steelworkers Unions, and politicians brought their printing needs to my parents home. By the age of nine I was helping with layout and typesetting. I’d be up with my parents until pretty late typing up copy on a Xerox Memorywriter. It speaks volumes as to why I was reading on 9th grade level by the time I was in 3rd grade. My life was print making, reading, story writing, typesetting, and proofreading.

At the age of fourteen I was introduced to Pat Clutter, one of the most influential people in my life to date. A former radio and tv personality from the Ohio Valley, Pat Clutter was somewhat of a legend. He had the style and class of a 1950′s broadcaster. He’d sling words around like a yo-yo, playing with alliteration and repetition making wordplay seem like child’s play. He was an artist. And he spent the latter years of his life teaching kids like me how to be a classy radio/tv personality. He taught the radio and television program at Wheeling Park High School with a lot of love and a sense of mission. You started with the history of broadcast, right up through how to use every piece of gear, how to write, and how to speak clearly. After a few introductory classes you had a shot at being on-air talent. I was fortunate enough that he saw my passion and talent for radio and he put me on the air right away. I had a radio show at least one night a week for two years. I wrote, produced, sold ads, came up with concepts for shows, did voice overs for commercials, and most importantly hosted and hosted and hosted shows. I loved it. I craved it. It was fun and it was exciting. Pat passed away of cancer towards the end of my career at Super 92 WPHP. We all missed him. He impassioned an entire generation of aspiring TV and Radio personalities, techies, writers, and producers. I later ended up buying his DJ’ing equipment from his family. I have them to this day – they are still in use – and they carry his memory.

Jump ahead to Wheeling Jesuit University. I had a lot, and I mean a lot of great professors there. Chris Willumsen in his guru like way would walk you through a Nine Inch Nails video as though you were digesting a Hitchcock thriller – pointing out symbols and allusions to other art forms. John Whitehead (along with Chris Willumsen) backed our film club after he inspired Chas Reed, Derik Wilson and I to get it started. After walking us through film after film in his classes we wanted to continue those kinds of dialogs over popular films, art films, classics, you-name-it outside of the classroom. He not only gave us his time and guidance but his friendship and lent us his own curiosity about film/video as an art form as he’d help lead us through what kinds of questions to ask, frame-by-frame. A number of others Kahtryn Voorhees, Joe Brumble, Richard Cain, and David Hammond all, despite their departmental affiliations, saw our eagerness to adopt film into the curriculum and found ways to incorporate film adaptations and related film works into the courses, giving us another way to relate to the content. I was passionate about video and film, as were others, and they were willing to build on that to keep us engaged. I thank you all for that. You’ve made me a better writer, a better asker of questions, a better critic, and generally – a more curious and more intelligent person.

And with THAT – I graduated. Fast forward, first job out of college. The real world strikes. I jumped back into the TV gig after a year or two of free lance gigs. I had been doing video production so it was an easy transition. Time to put that English degree to work, right? After a few months of working production for WTOV TV9 in Steubenville, OH, running cameras and graphics, the LoveSAN virus hit, the newsroom and almost every computer in the building was infected. After years of inherent geekiness and playing around on the side – I set my IT gears turning and went to task. I had them back up and running in a short amount of time. And before I knew it I was an IT professional and broadcast engineer. Fortunately for me I had two great mentors at the time. Len Smith and Don Fogle walked me through the tech, the ins and outs, monitoring a waveform, building cables, checking capacitors, repairing gear and basically everything I would later use in my career at CNN Washington, D.C. In my position at WTOV you never knew what you were going to end up supporting, installing, or building. I did voice overs for commercials, I cut them over completely from tape to tape editing to nonlinear Avid systems, installed Parker Vision Television automation, saw 14 presidential candidate visits in the valley, engineered live football games and country music concerts that were the scale of pro football games, and filled in at every spot imaginable in a broadcast TV facility. It was a great learning experience and then I got the call.

After only two weeks of having a resume on Monster.com I received a call from a recruiter from a major news organization asking how soon I could come for an interview. I happened to be traveling to Washington D.C. to visit family, so I did. Two weeks later I had a job supporting shows watched by millions of people. It was exciting. It was unbelievable. And here I sit – at my keyboard on the 10th floor with one of those shows about to start. It’s been an amazing ride. In the past two and a half years here I’ve been through two State of the Union speaches, one Presidential funeral, an insane amount of campaign coverage, YouTube debates, live blogger coverage of a midterm election, natural disasters of immense scale, political scandals, celebrity deaths, and a lot of other things I never thought I’d be a part of covering. In addition I’ve designed and installed a routing system for the White House, designed fiber and HD infrastructure for the Capitol and Pentagon sites, as well as taken the lead on various integration projects and HD upgrades that I have been privileged to work on.

*Deep breath* 10 years and kicking, and thus a career was born. So what’s next? Who knows. I want to take a quick second to thank Jonny Goldstein, Meg Fowler, Chris Brogan, Jill Foster, Jim Long, DC Media Makers, and everyone in the DC Media Scene as well as those that have been kind enough to comment and/or lead me in the right direction with social media. It was that missing spark in my current career that social media has lent me that seems to be leading me in the right direction with every blog post and every episode of Jonny’s Partay. I hope that I can find some way to incorporate my passion for social media and community building into my repertoire. I want to find a way to use my creativity and passion for film and video, my passion for writing, along with all of the technical experience I’ve gained over the last 10 years to do something great. I don’t know what it is yet – but I’ll let you all know when I do. Thanks for reading. Looking forward to many more -versary’s, whether it’s a Televersary or not is yet to be told.

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