this is how much I did not understand

It was a Monday night. I remember that for a couple of reasons even after thirty years.

First, I remember because my high school internship in the news department of WFXZ-FM/Buffalo (then known as Foxy 93 FM, now WBUF, using the Jack-FM format) was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My music department internship at the station was on Mondays and Wednesdays if memory serves.

I was in bed at 10:00 p.m., and I had possibly been in bed since 9:30 p.m. because 4:30 a.m. came pretty early when you are helping in news department during morning drive.

The news anchor of the station was a woman named Susan Hunt. She was a friend of my other brother Michael and he mentioned to her my burgeoning interest in broadcasting. A discussion ensued and an internship evolved. My work was subpar; I didn’t cause Susan any damage but I wasn’t much of a help either. It was a baptism by fire; I’m embarrassed by my meager accomplishments there but remain grateful for the opportunity.

How that internship happened still surprises me when I think about it. My high school hadn’t ever had a broadcasting internship…or possibly an internship of any kind. My high school produced doctors, lawyers and men of industry (occasionally a priest or two if they calling was heard). Not radio and TV people (Tim Russert, a graduate of this same high school, was not following a broadcast path at the time of his graduation).

Fortunately, the school did have a small TV department and my teacher, Terry Fisher (who went on to be my video production business partner for six years and a groomsman in my wedding) helped facilitate the opportunity.

On that Monday night, I also remember hearing my brother Chris come upstairs in our family house, he had been out. He came upstairs to ask our Mother if she had heard about John Lennon. Yes, she had seen a note on the TV screen.

I believe I came out of my room to ask what they were talking about and they told me. They were no cable news outlets at that time but there was news on TV about what happened.

What ever the brightest color of green there is, that would describe the sum of my knowledge of how to gather facts for and then write an actual news story. But I tried…I tried to be ready for the morning.

I knew this was a big deal. I did not understand how big.

So I arrived at about 5:45 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. when ever the bus dropped me off in front of the station. Susan appeared to appreciate my efforts in gathering news items about the event even though as a music station, the story would gather 2-3 sentences of a local intro or outro followed by a network news actuality or special report. Plus the local morning newspaper had all facts by that time.

But I was in the middle of it all….my first big news story as a news intern, writing copy, grabbing network feeds and then trying to stay out of the way.

Shooting, death, assassination – I understood all that. The Beatles, I got – I was born on the night they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. John and Yoko I knew about. The new record, Double Fantasy, I knew about, especially through my music internship. Fame – I had a passing understanding of the concept.

Generational impact? What?! I had no idea.

I missed the story’s lead…I didn’t understand it. I didn’t comprehend it.

I had to watch, observe and listen in the days, weeks and months to come.

Today I could write the lead and the story, grab the network feed with audio, video and links.

But a high school junior needs to learn. Fortunately, even at the time, well that I understood.

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