Retiring Takes a Plan

Most of you already know that I retired at the first of the year just shy enough of 42 years with COX to go ahead and round it to 42. Wow! What a final year it turned out to be.

First of all, I had a plan. Or I should say, Julie and I had a plan. That plan was to retire either in April when I turned 65 or, at the end of 2018. As we were running up to the end of 2017, I was leaning towards April. But it wasn’t anything that I had shared with anyone at work. The timeline for sharing the plan was part of the plan and it would be closer to my end date.

Then, a few things happened, starting with four key people at the station retiring within a year’s time. They caught me by surprise and, it turns out, they all had their plans too.

And those individual and personal plans resulted in over 150 years of institutional knowledge rolling out of the station over the course of six months.

VP & GM Tim McVay, my boss since 2011, and Deborah Denechaud, Director of Sales, retired at the end of 2017. Then, in April, Programming Director Art Rogers retired followed by Director of Community Affairs Jocelyn Dorsey in August. It was like a graduation class closing out incredibly successful careers and signaling the end of an era in many ways. And this was MY class. We had all grown up as managers together.

Then, at the end of 2017, Cox Media Group announced that it was restructuring the Atlanta properties as of January 1, 2018. The restructuring would integrate TV, Radio and Newspaper into one unit with new leadership. In the place of the traditional leadership positions of TV and Radio general managers or a publisher for the newspaper, this transformative structure created leaders in three key tracks: content, marketing and sales. These three leaders were tasked with breaking down barriers between the units to harness the power and unique competencies of the three business operations and see what we could do together.

Also in 2018, two historical milestone events were occurring: the 50th  anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th and Channel 2 WSB-TV’s 70th year on the air on September 29th.

Big moments like these are why you work for Channel 2. This station has the depth and breadth to “get” to the heart of what those moments mean to the community and we have the historical footage that few TV stations have maintained. The team here of programming producers, marketers and journalists knows how to tell big stories like no one else with the skills in using the new media to put the historical coverage into modern-day context and storytelling. And, both events gave the three outlets, WSB-TV and Radio and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the opportunity to really dive in together and demonstrate how working together makes for better community coverage in the end.

So, layering all of these things together as the year was beginning, I decided to stay for the whole year. I could accomplish a lot in doing so and really cap my final year with Cox and Channel 2. I could also lend consistency in a sea of change and work with the new leaders to assist in the transition.

Although it was very lonely without my colleagues of the last 18 years, I’m so glad that I did it that way. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

In early October, after the two brand-defining milestones of Dr. King and our 70th, I spoke privately with Jane Williams, the CMG EVP overseeing Atlanta. Jane is a longtime  friend and colleague, a former Director of Sales for WSB-TV who left the station in 2007 to become COX VP of TV Sales. But, in her heart, she never left Channel 2. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to Jane and the personal attention she paid to my retirement, and for her leadership and friendship over the years.

A week later, I announced it to my staff prior to the station staff the following morning at the quarterly station meeting. It’s funny that I was probably more nervous in facing and making that announcement than any presentation before. It was a very big personal reveal, which, once said out loud, is hard to take back. Retiring is a defining moment in a person’s career and life.

The announcement really set the ball in motion. The November sweep gave me something to really focus on and put my shoulder behind. Then, bam! It was December and my time at Channel 2 was over after 19 years.

But, not before the station held a retirement luncheon complete with special guest speakers, live music, food from Fox Brothers Barbeque, some really cool gifts and plaques, and, of course, the tape. Barry Sinnock and Lisa Spivack, my cohorts in creative minds, produced a great video voiced by our veteran station announcer, Scott Chapin.

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The event was an amazing honor. Never had I been showcased and celebrated as on that day. And, my 95-year-old mother flew in from Durham to join us. What a joy it was. And, what a way to go out.

I am so fortunate, so grateful and oh so proud – proud of the work of the amazing people with whom I partnered over the 42 years, proud to have worked at WSOC-TV, WPXI-TV and WSB-TV and proud to have worked for COX.

One of my plans for retirement is to refocus my energies from managing to rekindling the pursuits that started me down this path in the first place, writing, music, photography and visual arts. And, leverage those interests with the master’s class that I received in digital and social media during the last 15 years of my career.

As I relight this blog of mine, I wanted to share with you what I believe that I said that day in my last official act as the Director of Marketing for Channel 2 WSB-TV.

Retirement Luncheon Remarks

December 11, 2018. WSB-TV Studio A

erp_5558There comes a time and the time for me is now. On October 10th, in a station staff meeting, I announced my decision to retire. After 19 years at Channel 2 WSB-TV and almost 42 years with COX, it was a true bittersweet moment and led us to today and this wonderful gathering.

First off, let me say thanks to each and every one of you for taking the time out of your day to come and be here together. I hope that you can feel how you fill up this room with greatness, because that is what you have achieved over and over again and it exudes from your combination of forces – a force multiplier, something we’ve been calling our “secret sauce” for some time. Keep that. It’s precious. It makes you stronger.

And thanks to the team that is putting this on today led by Barry Sinnock, Lisa Spivack, Donna Lampkin and Sabrina Guler. You sure know how to throw a luncheon and make a guy feel special.

I want to thank Jane and Mike for being here representing Cox Media Group and for their support through the years.

And, I want to congratulate and welcome Sean Garcia who will be the next Director of Marketing for WSB-TV. Many of you know Sean from his nine years here in marketing. He went on to Jacksonville as promotion manager and then became Marketing Director at WFTV in Orlando. Welcome Sean. You’re going to do a great job here.

Gloria Lee, the Vice President of ABC Affiliate Marketing and Promotion flew in from LA to be here today. Gloria and I have worked together for almost 20 years starting with my move from Pittsburgh to Atlanta. We both began our new journeys at the about the same time in 1999. Very earlier on in my tenure here I served on the ABC Affiliate Marketing Board for four years, two as a regional representative, one as president, and finally as ex-officio. Gloria and I really got to know, respect and love each other as we partnered in ways to impact the brands of both ABC and Channel 2.

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L-R, WSB-TV Retirees Donna Mayer-Todd, Debbie Denechaud, me, John Pruitt, Jocelyn Dorsey, Tim McVay, Art Rogers and Greg Stone

And I want to recognize the royalty of faces back in the building today! To see Monica, John, Greg, Bill, Tim, Debbie, Art, Jocelyn and Donna Mayer-Todd – all these former greats in our station who did their part to punch that “Best Station in the Nation” ticket, thank you for our years together and for coming today.

Hey, this year has really been something hasn’t it? A very special shout out to Paul Briggs, Moya Neville and Donna Hall for their leadership through the year. No one has worked any harder than Paul, Moya and Donna on such a huge project as aligning TV, Radio and Newspaper together as one. Thank you.

I want to thank my wonderful partner in life and love, Julie Hazelton Riley. No one knows more than you, Julie, about the life of being married to a husband and a TV station at the same time.

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Blair, Mom and Julie

Julie and I met within my first month at WSOC-TV. We’ve been together ever since.

 

Thank you for all of your love, support and inspiration over the four decades. You gave me strength, wisdom and courage to make the difficult decisions along the way, and you were there for so many celebrations. And, all that hard work is soon to pay off in retirement. Right?

We’re so proud of both of our now grown children.

Our son, Clark, lives in Portland and works for a huge software firm. Unfortunately, he couldn’t swing the extra week to be here this far in front of Christmas. Love you son and we can’t wait to celebrate with you. Clark worked the infamous Channel 2 and Georgia Lottery patrol for a couple of summers.

Our daughter, Blair is here today. A former WSB-TV intern, she now works in Atlanta for a big time global public relations firm. She’s taught me a lot over the years about PR.

Julie and the kids lived the TV marketing life. Clark starred in his first of many TV promos when he was around two. It was a morning promo and he was wearing the full uni-jammies with feet. The kids and their friends were extras many times over, and they have been to enough parades and fireworks to last a lifetime.

Like any good speech, I want to thank my mom and dad for all their love and support through the years. Dad passed away three years ago. We never stop missing him but he continues to be on my personal board of governors.

erp_5496Mom is here today. Mom would you stand up please. Ladies and Gentlemen, the wonderful, unsinkable, hilarious and loveable, Martha Glymph Riley. She’s 95 damn years old, and she flew alone down here from Durham NC to celebrate with us. She’ll tell you a thing or two about a thing or two, in particular she has a few words about Atlanta’s airport!

Leaving is not easy and I have been very moved by the outreach of folks from inside and outside of COX with whom I have worked over the years. This company gives an employee a long reach.

I can’t tell you how much I have loved and appreciated working for COX starting way back in 1977 in Charlotte. This company nurtured me, promoted me and gave me every opportunity to succeed, and, allowed me to fail some along the way. I have had other offers over the years that stirred me a little, but when I opened up the hood on those organizations, they never equaled the character of COX. They were good, but not great. Attaining success but not through the same values as I have always felt resonated inside of the core of who we aspire to be at COX.   COX has been my family.

I admired Jim Kennedy from the day that met him at Lake Hearn not long after he took over the company reigns. He stopped by to talk with a handful of us marketers from the COX TV stations. He was so down to earth, and so appreciative of the work we all did to contribute to Cox’s success. He wasn’t too proud to openly discuss the difficulties and challenges he found in his new role, and he just hoped that he would measure up.

Well, through Jim’s leadership, this company went from good to great, growing it exponentially into the behemoth it is today. Thank you, Jim, and the COX family and now, Alex Taylor, for staying true to Governor Cox’s core beliefs: treat employees like family and always do the right thing.

Maintaining those core beliefs starts at the top. As a manager and leader, I have worked for extraordinarily supportive bosses in John Howell in Pittsburgh, and Greg Stone, Bill Hoffman, Tim McVay and Donna Hall here in Atlanta. The best of the best.

And, I hold the various teams with whom I’ve had the opportunity to play, lead or partner in the highest esteem. Each project and situation built a whole new “band of brothers and sisters.”

My father worked for the same family-owned company for 35 years. It was his passion and joy. I’m so lucky to have found the Cox family, pursue my passions and joys, and then, be able to retire from the company that launched my career…and, to retire from this great station of ours.

Channel 2 WSB-TV, is unlike any other. To get the opportunity to work here is a big darn deal. It is another to pass the test that the staff here puts to every new employee – you’ve got to represent and know your stuff. You’ve got to give it all you’ve got and what you give must be of the highest caliber. Working with the best makes you better and it makes us all work constantly to improve. We owe that to each other.

The pressure to succeed here is immense. There is so much pride and purpose, so much responsibility under such scrutiny. It is after all, the hometown of the company. This is the Cox family’s TV station. The one they and all of the senior executives in the company watch. It’s also the one their friends watch. And nothing can really prepare you for that.

Here’s to each of you, and your journey. Whatever your career plans, after years of hard work, stress and satisfaction, it will happen overnight, and you’ll be where I am. Moving on.

I know that you will nail it and continue to make a great company greater. I’m depending on you.

But before I “move on,” I want to end with a special thanks to the #1 Marketing and Design Team in the Country! Please stand and show yourself:

Barry Sinnock, Lisa Spivack, Julie Schulman, Donna Lampkin, Jamila Tyson, Mario Mendez, Adrianne Klabik, Ty Cody, Theresa Ferguson, David Ferebee, Corey Tatum, Sun Hey Kim, Daniella Lubisco, Shawn Goodrich, Shawnte’ James and Caleb Diaddigo. I just love saying those names. They show the diversity of this great group and they each are as creative as they sound.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your dedication, creativity, innovation, commitment – for sleeping here during the storms –promoting our people and our brand with love and devotion and providing a keen sense of protection and guardianship. You are simply the best. The station owes you a real standing “O.” I know that I surely do.

What an honor it has been to work with each of you here today.

Channel 2’s mission is to do well and good at the same time, to hold the powerful accountable, to communicate with our viewers on all platforms, and inspire them with the stories of Atlanta, that they can only get on Channel 2 Action News and WSB-TV.

We’re proud. We’re hungry. We’re beyond competitive and we’re dedicated to the community we serve and to each other to deliver “Coverage You Can Count On.”

“We are WSB-TV!” Say it with me! “WE ARE WSB-TV! WE ARE WSB-TV!

And that is what I will miss every single day. I will stay close with my Channel 2 and COX Media Group Atlanta family because you will come into my home and into my phone and into my car whether it’s televised over the air, on cable or over the top, and, through radio, newspaper, social and digital. It is all Channel 2 Action News and WSB-TV. It’s all the result of what YOU do Every Day. Every Newscast. Every program, promo, ad sale and master control switch.

Thank you Fred Blankenship. You are THE Master of Ceremonies and the master of getting us all up and on to great things in the morning.

As my father said to me, “It’s been a great ride.”

”Thanks for coming.

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Saying goodbye to the area outside of my office of 19 years. 

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