This poor woman. She had no idea what she was about to unleash onto the world of broadcasting over 35 years ago.
This woman’s name is Susan Hunt. Yesterday it was announced that she is being inducted next month into the Buffalo Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.
It is a deserving honor. Not because of the television work she has done for HGTV, PBS, Discovery, The Travel Channel, ESPN, HBO and the Golf Channel among others. That work is terrific and worthy of recognition.
However, Susan Hunt deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because she gave me my first job in broadcasting. It was an internship but for me it was a start. Given what she had to work with when this high school junior walked through the radio station door back then, though, she should receive something more like a medal. With any luck and maybe some therapy, she’s long forgotten the experience.
The year was 1980 and my brother Michael knew Susan and her family. He also knew of my budding interest in broadcasting and he knew that she was making her own way in broadcasting, at that time as the morning radio news anchor at WFXZ-FM (Foxy 93….I know, it was the 80’s).
Anyway, one night my brother and Susan got to talking. He told her about me, his younger brother still in high school, who wanted to get into broadcasting. She needed an intern in the morning. A contact was made, a deal was struck: I’d intern at the station, the station wouldn’t pay me and that’s broadcasting in a nutshell.
I knew nothing about journalism, radio news or even broadcasting. If there was a way to measure “less than nothing”, that’s where my media knowledge at the time would’ve really ranked.
And my high school was barely any help in this internship matter. The media teacher there, who would go on to be my business partner for a time and a groomsman at my wedding, tried to put something together resembling an internship but the high school guidance office was used to “forming” doctors and lawyers, not broadcasters. At the time, school alumnus Tim Russert wasn’t “NBC’s Tim Russert” yet (and he was a lawyer by trade anyway).
But in I jumped, with both my inexperienced feet, getting up at 4:00 am to get dressed and get the bus and be at the station by 5:45 for 2 or 3 times a week (I think). It was my first time listening to the farm reports on the radio (that’s how early in the morning it was – only me, farmers and chickens were awake). To give you a sense of when all this took place, the night before my first day in the Foxy 93 newsroom was the night John Lennon was assassinated.
Newsroom is a rough term, almost as rough as the term “radio station”. This place was a run down 2 story house at Main and Summer streets in what was, at the time, not the nicest of neighborhoods.
I could not have cared less about the building or the high school course credits. I was working at a radio station – learning the hard way – from somebody willing to give a newbie a chance. And that made all the difference.
The chance that Susan Hunt gave an ignorant. 17-year-old kid in 1980 helped clarify for him what he wanted to do with his life. That’s a pretty cool gift.
A communicator, a broadcaster, a voice over talent – it would take time, trial and error. But the success I’ve enjoyed might not have come as quickly or at all without that chance.
We all need that chance in our careers.
Likewise, for every chance we are given, we each should remember to offer that chance to someone in return.
Thank you, Susan, for my chance.