GOOD FRIENDS – BOSTON’S TV NEWS PERSONALITIES – GARRY ARMSTRONG WITH MARK SHANAHAN

I’ve just finished reading Terry Ann Knopf’s “The Golden Age of Boston Television”.  Terry was a long time TV critic for a prominent Boston-area newspaper. It’s an interesting read, covering a special time in Boston television news. I’m in it, briefly.

You would think a local legend like me would get more space. Just kidding, Terry. I’m flattered you included me.

The Golden Age of Boston Television by Terry Ann Knopf

Boston, indeed, experienced a wonderful period of TV news excellence. It was the envy of the nation at one point. I know because many reporters from network to major local stations shared their feelings with me. I knew because I had worked at a network (ABC News) before my career landed me in Boston. I could do the comparison without bias. Sadly, the excellence in TV journalism is now history with a few exceptions. Terry deals with that in her book.

I’m sure there will be a mixed response to “The Golden Age of Boston Television” from those who worked at the various television stations during the period.  As for me, I enjoyed the journey through time. I logged 31 years on Boston television. I have a treasure chest of memories.

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Garry Armstrong and Barry Nolan

One of the things missing from Terry’s book is an acknowledgement of the excellent work done by people from all the competing TV stations.  This was a time when reporters received five to ten minutes to deliver stories in complete depth. Facts were double and triple-checked. Words mattered. Our editors were old-school and verbally spanked us for purple prose or improper use of grammar. We cared more about the quality of our stories than how good we looked in live shots.

Reporters, competing for a scoop on the same story, often shared information to be sure we were accurate.  We wanted to be first — but we wanted to be right. There was no joy in seeing a competitor embarrassed by bad information. We had a bond — unlike any other major news market. Writing came first for most of us. Our words were supposed to complement the video — not be redundant.

There was a false belief among outsiders that we didn’t like each other. We’d back stab one another for a “beat.” Sure, there were a few who were better suited to modelling, chasing ambulances, or selling insurance, but that was not true for most of us. For a few precious years, Boston boasted an all-star lineup of reporters who graced the lineups for its TV stations.

Charlie “Chuck” Austin, Jack Harper, Jorge Quiroga, Dan Rea, Kirby Perkins, Walt Sanders, Sarah Ann Shaw, Ron Gollobin, Marty Sender, Shelby “Storm Queen” Scott, David Roepik, Ron Sanders, Paul Reece, Victoria Block, Rehema Ellis, Maurice Lewis, Byron Barnett, Greg Wayland, Gary Gillis (a multi-threat in hard news and sports), Mark Wile, Jack Borden, Chet Curtis (all-star reporter and anchor).

I know I’m forgetting some people and I apologize. Age is catching up.

Clark Booth is special. He’s a hero. Clark’s way with words often meant “we don’t need no stinkin’ video”.  Clark’s catch phrase “good stuff” has been stolen here myriad times.

I’ve stayed away from the news anchors because they are a different story and deserve separate space. News anchors, local and network, are a special breed. Terry Ann Knopf deals with many of Boston’s star anchors in her book. I’ve also not mentioned the “behind the camera” people who were so integral to our success. I will have a special piece on them. Stay tuned.

One of my former colleagues epitomizes my feelings about Boston’s television news reporters.  Ask anyone of a certain age about Joe Day and they will smile. Your political persuasion or news preferences don’t matter. We lost Joe two years ago and our world is poorer for his absence.

The Golden Age of Boston Television
Terry Ann Knopf
University Press of New England, Hanover and London

243 pages including appendix


JOE DAY


In August 2015, we gathered as a group to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier that year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

Many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, his vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career. There were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing.

Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens. That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.


Boston’s TV news personalities come together to party by Mark Shanahan


Tom Bergeron (left) with Emily Rooney and Bob Lobel at a party at WGBH celebrating the new book “The Golden Age of Boston Television.”

Ah, the good old days.

That was very much the vibe at a party Wednesday night to celebrate the release of Terry Ann Knopf’s new book, “The Golden Age of Boston Television,” which looks back fondly at the heyday of local news, a period that lasted from the early ’70s to the early ’90s.

But whatever old wounds there were have clearly healed because a crowd of familiar, if slightly faded, wizened faces from back in the day filled a conference room at WGBH to salute Knopf for telling their story. (This being the media, many were also there for the free wine and beer.)

“This is like a high school reunion on the island of broken toys,” said Barry Nolan, who hosted WBZ-TV’s “Evening Magazine” in the ’80s. “Look at these people. Age has ravaged us, bad decisions have plagued us, failures have followed us, but we’re still here.”

Nolan was kidding, sort of. As Knopf points out in her book, Boston TV stations have a proud legacy of producing a lot of on-air talent that went on to national prominence, folks such as Martha RaddatzJay SchadlerHampton Pearson, Lesley StahlDan LothianRehema EllisMike Taibbi, and David Muir.

Another in that category is Haverhill’s own Tom Bergeron, the affable host of “Dancing With the Stars” who hosted WBZ-TV’s talk show “People Are Talking” in the ’80s. Bergeron drove up from his home in Greenwich, Conn., to attend the party and see old friends.

“My wife once said to me that when the ice sculptures disappeared from the Emmy parties, she knew it was all coming to an end,” said Bergeron.

Francine Achbar, the former executive producer of programming at Channel 4, shared a similar memory.

“About every two months there would be an awards thing and I’d take out my black velvet dress and we’d go to some city and get another award, and I’d say, ‘This can’t last,’ ” Achbar said. “Then, in 1990, I laid off about 40 people and I knew that was it.”

Yesteryear was well represented at the book party. Guests included longtime anchor R.D. Sahl, “Sonya Hamlin Show” host Sonya HamlinDan ReaJoe Bergantino and wife Candy Altman, former Channel 4 medical reporter Jeanne BlakeHank Phillippi Ryan, former Channel 5 anchor Susan WornickJon Keller, meteorologist Harvey Leonard (who skipped his station’s 6 p.m. broadcast Wednesday to go to the party), Sharon King, Channel 4 exec Barry SchulmanDick Albert, Jim Boyd, the estimable Christopher LydonCallie CrossleyGail Harris, whose great haircut made us wish she was still on the air, Lydon’s former co-anchor Carmen Fields, and Sarah-Ann Shaw, the former WBZ-TV reporter who was the first female African-American reporter on Boston TV. (Knopf dedicates her book to Shaw.)

Monica Collins, a friend of Knopf’s and a fellow former TV critic — she wrote for the Boston Herald for many years — was also there, to the dismay of legendary former Channel 4 sportscaster Bob Lobel, whom Collins apparently skewered in the past.

“Where’s Monica?” Lobel said after Knopf acknowledged Collins in the crowd. “Come up here and say you’re sorry.”

The crowd laughed.

Knopf gave Emily Rooney a shout-out of sorts — “I don’t care what anybody thinks of you, Emily, I think you’re great” — but also gave her props for being a pioneer in TV news. (Rooney was executive producer of ABC’s “World News Tonight” — the first female to hold that post at a major network.)

Since everyone in the room is, or at least was, in the news business, there was a lot of chatter about the Trump effect. Viewers are tuning in to hear about the latest news or outrage or scandal, and that makes Rooney miss her late father, cranky CBS commentator Andy Rooney.

“What he’d say would be so good,” Rooney said wistfully. “It would be career-ending — for both of them.”

06/14/2017 BOSTON, MA Bob Lobel (cq) (left) and Emily Rooney (cq) attend a cocktail party at WGBH studios. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Bob Lobel (left) and Emily Rooney.

06/14/2017 BOSTON, MA Jon Keller (cq) (left) and Terry Ann Knopf (cq) attend a cocktail party at WGBH studios. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Jon Keller (left) and Terry Ann Knopf.

06/14/2017 BOSTON, MA L-R Carmen Fields (cq), Christopher Lyndon (cq) and Robin Parmelee (cq) attend a cocktail party at WGBH studios. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Left to right: Carmen Fields, Christopher Lyndon, and Robin Parmelee.

06/14/2017 BOSTON, MA Gail harris (cq) (left) and Francine Achbar (cq) attend a cocktail party at WGBH studios. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Gail Harris (left) and Francine Achbar.

06/14/2017 BOSTON, MA Hank Phillippi Ryan (cq) hugs Mike Lawrence (cq) during a cocktail party at WGBH studios. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

ARAM BOGHOSIAN, BOSTON GLOBE – Hank Phillippi Ryan hugs Mike Lawrence.

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