Sometimes I have a point in mind when I start writing these essays. Sometimes, like now, I’m just exploring a thought. Maybe there’s a point here, but I couldn’t say. At least not now.
I just saw that a Fox news anchor was fired for sexual harassment. His co-anchor had to read that announcement. She read it with professionalism, but the clip I saw showed just a moment as she stopped, where her expression said something. I will not presume to know what it said. But she was thinking and feeling something she didn’t express.
It reminded me of a moment I’d almost forgotten, many years ago. I was the weekend news anchor at a network affiliated TV station in the Capital District. It was a position of responsibility for someone as young as I was, and one I took very seriously.
The weekend team was a tight bunch. We worked well together, to the surprise of just about everyone. There was the young sports guy, the young co-anchor, the young producer, the young me, and our weatherman – a guy 20 years older than the rest of us.
He had a reputation for being “difficult.”
He was an old-school weatherman, meaning he was a weather reporter, not a meteorologist. He’d been doing the job, part-time, for many years, at many stations. He voiced commercials, and if you lived around Albany, you’d grown up hearing his voice.
He did not suffer fools gladly. And he thought most people he worked with were fools.
He despised producers who treated weather like an afterthought. He wasn’t shy about speaking up when they cut the time for his segment because they’d miscalculated how long the show was going to run.
But we worked well together. He knew I respected his experience.
I produced and anchored the late news, but with me there were no arguments when I turned to him on set during a commercial break and asked him to cut 30 seconds or fill an extra 30. He took it as a compliment, a sign that I knew he was a pro. He always came through.
When I was assigned to fill in during the week for the regular weather man, a job that, for someone who was used to reading scripts, was totally terrifying, the weekend weatherman was my coach. And when I didn’t collapse on air in front of the weather map, and even did a passable job, he told me I should go get a meteorology degree. I had, he believed, a chance to have a really good career in weather.
Then our station announced cutbacks. Several part time people were let go. One of them was the weekend weatherman. I had to write that announcement, and read it, with him sitting beside me at the anchor desk.
He was in his forties, and there was no question that this was a blow for him. It was likely the end of his television career. And my heart was breaking for him.
Reader, I didn’t perform with professionalism that night. I started to read the script, and then I felt my eyes filling up. I read the announcement that he would no longer be with us, I thanked him for his years of good work, and I did it with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.
My boss, who was a great journalist and a remarkable mentor, had a stormy relationship with our weekend weatherman. He was not happy with me. All I could do was apologize. I suspect it was one of the times he realized the risk of letting children anchor the news.
After the show, the weatherman gave me a big hug.
“Nobody’s ever cried for me,” he said. “That meant something.”
I suspect no one’s crying for that Fox anchor.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.