While it’s Election Day and enough will be said about that tonight and for days to come, I want to focus on the 1988 election. Not the fact that George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis easily in the electoral vote and by 7 million in the popular vote. I want to talk about the weather in Murray and Mayfield, Kentucky, on November 8, 1988.
From the time I started the Journalism-Radio Television program at Murray State University in the fall of 1983 until I graduated in the spring of 1989 (yes, I was a 5-year student and I took time off), I worked hard to prepare for the future.
Not only did I report the weather four nights a week for the first couple of years of college at our campus television station, MSU TV-11, I did a music program called “Music Visions” that counted down the top ten hits in western Kentucky, I worked at the campus radio station as a disc jockey, and I did several theatrical productions. I’m honest when I say that my grade point average suffered.
But, I will say that my professors, John Dillon, Al Gruele, and Bob Lochte worked very hard to guide us in the right direction. With this particular small town hick, they helped re-shape the way that I talked. I learned that “get” was not “git”, “yellow” was not “yallow”, and “Washington” was not “Warshington”.
However, despite their hard work and it definitely could have been a slip up, I remember hearing an anchor in the 1980s at our campus station read a story about the state of Ar-kansas. I still think it’s pronounced Ar-kan-saw. Or, maybe she was a pirate and was discovering the Plains, “Look, it’s Arrrrrr Kansas”. I’m only making a joke because mispronounced words still come out of my mouth.
In the spring of 1989, I sent out my first resume tape to a television station in Topeka, Kansas. And, thank God, because of Rev. Fred Phelps and his family living there, I never heard back from them. Other tapes went out over the next year and in the fall of 1990, I landed my first weather job as the evening weatherman for a station in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. However, I had to turn it down and I moved back to Kentucky (from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) to be near my mother. Sadly, she died three weeks later.
After that, no new television job offers came my way. In 1994, I put it on the back burner and moved to Chicago and waited tables and became a bartender.
Finally, in 1996, I decided to give television one more chance –seven years after graduating college. I took a job at an independent station in Merrillville, Indiana, about 53 miles from Chicago. I drove that distance a few days a week for $5 an hour to get one news package (an extended news story that I reported complete with my voice, a stand-up, and interviews).
I was there for about six weeks. During that time, I sent out a resume and a cover letter to every small and medium television station in the nation, except for Alaska and Hawaii. That was a total of 234. Of those, I got 14 responses asking for a resume tape. And, luckily for me, one news director called me for an interview.
My friend, Christopher, and my chow chow, Keshia, rode along with me on the 6-hour, 334-mile drive from Chicago to Rhinelander, in the northwoods of Wisconsin, the home of the “Hodag” that spring.
The interview went well and Mike Michalak, the news director, offered me the job of morning weathercaster and reporter for the NBC affiliate’s new morning show that would begin in August 1996.
That was my break into television news. I was there five months before moving on to Lubbock, Texas, Youngstown, Mansfield, and Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois (a news writer for Fox News Chicago), Salisbury, Maryland, and then Moline, Illinois.
I’ll be eternally grateful to Mike Michalak for hiring me for that first job. At the time, I thought all of the other news directors must have been insane for not calling me in for an interview and offering me a job. However, looking at that raw and very immature tape now, I wonder why Mike hired me in the first place!!!
Where is all this leading and what does it have to do with Election Day 1988? That very crude resume tape that I sent to Mike in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, featured a weathercast from 24 years ago. Trust me, friends, not many people have ever seen this. I’m sharing this with you to show that I have a sense of humor and we need a distraction from the bitter election season we just encountered.
Thank you for reading my career flashback blog. I hope you smiled.