NOTHING Will Ever Get Me Used To This

In 1999 I was working at WHDH TV in Boston when we first heard reports of the shooting at Columbine High School. Everyone went into breaking news mode. That’s what news people do. It’s our job. Our reporter headed to the airport. We were in wall to wall coverage. I was running so fast through the newsplex with video to edit that I rolled my ankle. I couldn’t walk by the end of the day and I ended up on crutches. It was the day “school shooting” first entered into my news vocabulary.

Nearly 20 years later and it was just around noon today when we first heard reports of the shooting in Florida. Everyone went into breaking news mode. That’s what news people do. It’s our job. Only today there was no running for me. There was no rolled ankle. There was no need to. Because I’ve seen this story before. Time. And. Time. Again. Who was the shooter? What was the motive? Did we check social media for photos and video? How many people died? Has the President tweeted any reaction? We already had generic school shooting graphics made from the LAST school shooting we covered. Let that sink in. We ALREADY had special graphics ready to go for a school shooting because we cover them so frequently.

Here on the west coast we dipped in and out of coverage from our sister Fox station in Miami WSVN.. it’s also the sister station of WHDH where I had my first full time staff job in news. I know some of the same people on the air at WSVN today were with me that day in 1999 at WHDH.

All these years later.
How far we’ve all come.
Or maybe how far we still have to go.

My sister texted me in the middle of the afternoon saying our neighbor from Leo Road in Sharon, MA where we grew up, taught at that same school district in Florida. He’s safe and I’m grateful. I know the same can’t be said for all his students and coworkers.

I got on the freeway for the long LA ride home tonight. The never ending commute can provide some good thinking time. And today was no exception. Today, as has happened on occasion over the years, on too many occasions to be honest, after a long day of staring at the news, after a long day of telling stories which never should have needed to be told, after a long day of talking about the next school shooting, I started to tear up.

Nothing will ever get me used to this.

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Christmas Eve & The Power of “Believe”

We’ve had a little crisis of faith this holiday season.. our youngest daughter not sure she believes in Santa Claus anymore.

She didn’t want to write a letter to Santa this year, wasn’t sure what she’d say.

I guess it’s only natural, kids get a little older, they start to talk to their friends at school. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

And so it was this Christmas. The kids knew they had gifts we bought for them waiting by the fireplace. But what about Santa.

On Christmas Eve our little kid started asking if Santa was coming. And we explained she hadn’t written Santa a letter. Santa didn’t know what she’d want anyway. We reminded her she wasn’t sure she believed anymore.

She said with the agony of a little child conflicted about her beliefs on Christmas Eve and clinging to childhood just a little longer, “I believe. I DO believe. I BELIEVE.”

The kids went to bed and woke up the next day to see all the gifts we had already wrapped and they opened them with the delight of all kids on Christmas Day.

Our daughter looked around for anything extra, but that was it, just the gifts from mom and dad and nothing more. She didn’t say anything but you knew she was thinking it. It went unsaid.

We went along with our Christmas Day and went to see her Abuelita for Christmas dinner. And when we arrived home after a long day, I reminded the kids there was one thing they hadn’t opened.

Where? They’d opened all the gifts.
Well, not all of them.

We pointed towards the fireplace. The stockings hung with care. Two red stockings etched in cursive with the word “BELIEVE”.

And our younger kid dug in to find a stocking full of her favorite things, little miniatures, a light up yo-yo, and the little erasers she loves to collect. The little erasers she told us she would have asked Santa for, if she had ever written that letter. Those erasers. Our older one found a bunch of stuff she loves too… even a harmonica.

As to how they all got there?

There was only one answer that made sense. There was only one answer as to HOW all these things got into two stockings with the word “believe”.

Later in the evening, mom asked her if she still believed in Santa. She said with little kid assurance, “I never said I didn’t”. And she was a little kid for just a little while longer.

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The Moments Never To Be Missed

I got dressed for work and walked up to my daughter and said softly, “bunny I don’t think I’m gonna make it to the show today”.

And she gave me the look.. the “I already knew you were gonna disappoint me” look.  I told her mom was gonna record it for me and she’d be awesome and I’d watch it later.

And she gave me the look and just turned away. And I crumbled. I picked up my phone and messaged work right away asking if it was alright to be late today to see my kid’s holiday concert.

Without a second thought, the response back was “absolutely”… “those are the moments never to be missed”… And I went back and told my kid, “actually I’m gonna be at your show after all”

I realized in that moment it was ME putting the pressure on me..

worried all this time that work can’t get by without me that I’ve got to be there every second.. ME putting the pressure on ME… no one else.

I went to the show and my daughter took the stage and I waved at her across the room as she stood on the platform.. and she smiled back and I waved some more.

Her elementary school class sang and they were the sweetest holiday tunes ever.. and all the pressure that ME had put on ME washed away in a sea of music.

“The moments never to be missed”. The words hung with me as I waved goodbye to my daughter as she went back to class.

Today I was there and present and my work did just fine without me… and I was perfectly OK with it..

Work will always be there.. the elementary school holiday musical with my kid singing to me.. won’t be.

I just wanted to savor it… the moments never to be missed.

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Looking for Jimmy: A Son’s Search For His Dad’s 1979 GMC Truck

Growing up on the tree lined streets of Sharon, Massachusetts many people never knew that my sister and I actually had a brother. Yep. We did. His name was Jimmy. Dad lovedddddd Jimmy and spent most every weekend with him, taking him out, working in the yard. Jimmy could do no wrong. Born in 1979, just a few years after me, Jimmy was often the favorite. Dad was an English teacher and he’d take Jimmy to school to show off to the students. People would snap photos with Jimmy. They’d talk about Jimmy. Dad even wrote to a magazine about Jimmy and they printed his story. Jimmy’s photo and the article were framed in the house. I guess I was jealous. Scratch that. I’m sure I was jealous and a little like Jan Brady growing up, as my sister and I would often think Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy.

Well by now you may have guessed that Jimmy wasn’t actually my brother. He was a truck. Jimmy was a 1979 GMC Jimmy- fiberglass top, wall to wall blue carpeting, bucket seats, fully detailed with racing stripes across the side. My dad bought Jimmy at Powers Pontiac in Taunton, MA before 495 was even an interstate. He’d make the long trip from Sharon to Taunton to get the truck serviced. Or should I say WE’d make the trip there. I’m the only middle age guy who remembers that a guy named Bob Champagne worked at Powers Pontiac because he helped my dad with the truck so much. Yeh as a little kid I knew the name of the dealership guys. And they knew I loved the little Coca Cola machine they had in the garage, the kind where you’d put in coins and then pull the glass bottle out of the freezer. That was the reason I liked going to the dealership. Well that, and the milk bottle restaurant down the street. We were there frequently. Dad babied that truck. He worked on that truck. He made that truck perfect. Every weekend. In the driveway. Every weekend. More tweaks. Every weekend. More touch ups. Every weekend. More things to do. Every weekend. It was no secret to many of the neighbors either. Jimmy was his favorite.

I hated Jimmy. There I said it.

Dad spent so much time on Jimmy, and we barely ever used it. It sat in the driveway most of the time with the odometer perfectly low. Perfect. Sitting. Jimmy.   So when dad died unexpectedly in my sophomore year of high school, I hated Jimmy even more. No dad to teach me to shave, or to drive, or to pass on the keys to Jimmy. My mom and sister had had enough of Jimmy too. So much of our childhood and their marriage went into that truck. SO much time. SO much. I drove it a few times and always feared the ghost of dad would come back for me if we ever did anything bad to it. We eventually sold Jimmy. And I was we glad.

It’s a funny thing about time. It plays tricks on your mind. 27 years after my father died and all I’ve thought about lately is Jimmy. What ever happened to him? Did he meet his fate in a junk yard? Did another truck enthusiast give Jimmy a loving home? Is it possible, possible at all, that Jimmy is still out there somewhere? Nostalgia is a strong emotion. Mom and dad are no longer around. Their voices are fading in my mind. But I still remember the sound that Jimmy would make when the engine started. I still remember the seatbelt buzzer my dad disabled. I still remember the rattle in the tailgate that drove him nuts.  I still remember the smell of that carpet and the leather floor mats armor-all’d to a shine.

I guess I really never hated Jimmy. And I’d love to see him again if he was still around. And I’m sorry to my dad for being so short sighted in high school as to sell something that was clearly special to him.

Here’s what I know:

Powers Pontiac is out of business. I found an obituary for the owner and news that the dealership was eventually bought.

The truck was written about in Truckin Magazine in the early 1980’s. I’ve written to the magazine to see if they have that.

It may have been sold to Rodman Ford in MA because that’s where mom bought all her cars. I’ve written to Rodman Ford as well to see what they know.

Jimmy looked a lot like this at one point (I found this pic online of a similar Chevy Blazer from a seller across the country).  I wonder what he looks like now.  

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Have YOU seen Jimmy? Do you remember the English teacher from Norwood High School who would always show his truck around school?  Drop me an email pwilgoren@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

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I Still Believe In Local TV News

I took one TV journalism course in college. One. I didn’t know it at the time, but the course with professor Jim Thistle at Boston University would change my life. I went to school destined to be a radio DJ, or so I thought. I studied radio, and film, and writing, but only took that one course in TV news. (Right now, some of you are thinking this probably explains a lot) When I got out of college I pursued my career in radio, traveling 75 miles each way to my first on-air radio gig at a top 40 station in Portsmouth, NH. Then one day, months after my graduation, the phone rang. It was professor Thistle on the other end of the phone. He said he knew ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB needed writers, and he thought I’d make a great writer, and he wanted to know if I was interested. I was. It was that one call with professor Thistle, a long time and well respected news director in Boston that changed everything. WCVB took a chance on me. They trained me. They gave me the knowledge to learn and to grow and to embrace the power of local TV news. It’s been more than twenty years since then, and I’ve experienced two decades of history on the OTHER side of the television, as we bring news to the communities we serve.

Today I thought of professor Thistle when I read an article in the LA Times about the steep cuts to the LA Weekly, the amazing alternative paper in Southern California. The cuts there this week were brutal. In the article, the LA Times quoted a professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, looking to provide perspective on what it means that the LA Weekly is now a shell of its former self.

The professor said, “At this point, local news coverage is the L.A. Times’ California section and car chases on TV news.”

A professor of journalism chalked up local TV news to car chases and nothing more.

So I emailed the professor, for myself, but really and more importantly for ALL my friends in the local TV news business.

I said, “I respectfully need to disagree with your quote in the LA Times…. While car chases do drive ratings, we cover a huge range of topics—local, national, human interest, and breaking news of course….”

I went on to talk about the achievements of just my local TV newsroom recently, big investigations which went national, stories we broke that viewers couldn’t see anywhere else, not even in the alternative newspapers, stories that matter. Each of our local TV newsrooms covers its share of stories that matter to Los Angeles.

I added, “I guess I’m hoping that as professor to the next generation of journalists, you won’t discourage people from finding a good home in the local TV news business.”

I thought of professor Jim Thistle and the love he had for local TV news as I wrote to this professor who clearly, it seems to me from that quote, has lost his faith in local TV news. I told the professor in closing, “I feel myself needing to defend ALL journalists nowadays, especially TV news, and just wanted to give you my thoughts.”

I still believe in the power of local TV news. The idea of fake news has been incredibly damaging. When the naysayers become people even within our own industry, it’s important to remind them, and to keep demonstrating to the viewers, that we’re much more than just car chases.

 

 

 

 

 

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A World Without Mirrors

In a world without mirrors,
you never get to stand there and just stare at your imperfections

In a world without mirrors,
you might know you’re different than someone else, but those differences aren’t staring back at you

In a world without mirrors,
you are just you, and someone else is just someone else

perhaps THAT’s why on a random day, in a random moment, my 9 year old suggested simply the beauty of a “world without mirrors”.. saying if that was the case “no one could ever be too confident… or have reason not to be confident enough”

In a world without mirrors,
beauty comes from within, because that’s the only thing you can base it on.

Maybe she’s on to something, building confidence from within, and beauty from within, the makings of our next generation, not just another pretty face.

 

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There Are No Words

I work in the news business. My life is all about words. WORDS. But words only work when they can accurately portray what someone is trying to describe. I haven’t posted anything about Las Vegas and the tragedy there which has reverberated across the country because honestly I’m fresh out of words. I’m out of words to describe the terror, trauma, and pain. I’m out of words to describe the tears, heartache, and loss. I’m out of words to put into words what can’t possibly be described. I’m out of words to try and explain and put into context what can’t possibly be explained and put into context. I’m out of words to try and speak to my little kids about the world we live in, where we are now, and where we are going. I’m out of words. One day I hope to find them again. For now, I’m speechless. So I offer no words. Just a hug.  And a heartfelt thank you to all the first responders and incredible everyday people who were heroes in a time of need.

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