It was my sophomore year at Bethany College in West Virginia and I had nothing lined up for winter break, which started in two days. The chair of the communications department came to me and told me that the intern he had lined up to work in news at the television station in Wheeling, where I lived, had come down with mononucleosis. I was clearly not his first choice, but he was desperate and the logistics worked. He said, “Promise me you’ll take it, and promise me you’ll do your best.”
Now, I had never set out to be on television—I wanted to be a radio sportscaster. I had worked on the school radio station, the school paper and the yearbook. But, of course, I took the internship. And 15 months later, the station needed a weekend sports and weather person, and they hired me. And when I graduated, in 1975, they hired me full time to do news at that station. So that internship set me on my 43-year broadcasting career. And it made me an optimist. I saw that opportunities do come your way. You have to be prepared and be willing to bend your plans slightly.
My story wasn’t entirely luck and it wasn’t entirely preparation. But later in my career, too, I found that almost everything happened when I wasn’t looking for it and wasn’t expecting it. That communications chair at my college and the anchorman at the station both drilled the same lesson into me: Learn to write.
My teacher, Jim Carty, really challenged me. He would send my assignments back over and over until I got them right. And the anchorman, Mark Davis, would be smoking in the newsroom, saying, “I can teach someone how to be on camera, but I can’t teach you to write, to report, to question, to think.”
I heard their voices over and over throughout my career. No one ever taught me better basic tools of the craft.