Time flies in television in so many ways. Therefore, we feel another in our series "Where Are They Now?" is long overdue.
For this month's feature, we located one of the easiest of the Channel 3 alumnists to be found - Virgil Dominic. Virgil is back at Channel 3 working behind the scenes with our talent and news management as a consultant this time around.
If there was ever a "TV Dad" I wish I had, it would be Virgil. His career as taken him to many locales, but ultimately found Cleveland as home. Virgil has done it all over the years from anchor to sales, to General Manager of WJW and now a consultant.
We recently asked Virgil to tell us, in his own words, what he has been up to over these many years that go by so fast.THE PAST:
I served as the main anchor at Channel 3 from 1965 to 1972. In addition to doing the 6, 7 and 11 PM newscasts, I also did a national radio show, NBC News on the Hour, at 5 PM each day and a local radio newscast on WKYC AM at 5:30 PM. I had come to Cleveland from WKY-TV in Oklahoma City. In those days, the networks did not have extensive bureaus. They relied on local stations with good news operations to cover stories in the regions of the country.
Our region was Oklahoma and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. I was getting on NBC's Huntley Brinkley report pretty regularly as news happened in our region---everything from tornadoes and forest fires to visits by John F. Kennedy. In that way I came to the attention of some NBC news executives and, out of the blue, they offered me the job in Cleveland.
WKYC's newsroom at that time was run by NBC News. Because of this, the network frequently sent me to New York to be the news anchor on the TODAY show, when the regular newscaster was on vacation. Among the people I got to work with was Barbara Walters, who was very kind to me, and whom I continue to admire. I loved working at WKYC...we had some wonderful reporters...many of whom went on to have great careers at the network as correspondents. These included Carl Stern, John Dancy, Fred Briggs and Don Oliver.
These were exciting days to be in television...we were all young people and the business was still sort of being invented at that time. For example, there were no teleprompters. I had to memorize every line of copy for 3 shows a day. Of course, the anchor at that time also had to write most of the show himself...so...because it is your copy it is easier to memorize than one might think. I quickly became friends with my studio crew. One time they timed me and said I was looking at the camera 98 per cent of the time.
One of my newscast directors at that time was a guy you know...his name was Brooke Spectorsky. Who knew back then that Brooke would become GM and hire me as a consultant. Long time relationships are just one of the wonderful things about this business. There were a lot of big stories that I was involved in back then. I anchored election night coverage when Carl Stokes was elected the first black mayor of a major American city; I was out on the street covering the terrible Hough riots; NBC sent me to Detroit to cover the riots there.
One of the interesting things about that was...after me and my cameraman had been out on the street all night and most of the next day...NBC sent in Chet Huntley and he ended up reporting the story with all the material we had developed and written.
The Kent State shootings were also a story I shall never forget. Then, there was the great July 4th storm. The incredible fact about that was that while we did the 6 PM show the show was shining brightly; our weatherman Wally Kinnan scanned the radar. There was not a cloud in sight. Wally confidently predicted it would be a fine night to view the fireworks. About an hour and a half later it was raining so hard you couldn't see across the street. Of course there was a lot of damage and some people, who had gathered at Edgewater Park for the celebration lost their lives. I loved being at WKYC...loved the people I worked with..and was so proud to be the anchorman.
As time went by, I began to develop a feeling that I wanted more control over the news stories, the kind of news stories we did, and how we did them. I began to wonder if I could be a news director. t was only a thought because I was doing well at the station ands at the network..and I wasn't looking for a job. I think that sometimes God literally steps into one's life. Out of the blue, I got a call to go to Atlanta to become news director and anchor at the 3rd place station there. With heavy heart, I left TV3.
Starting a newsroom from the ground up was the most important lesson of my life. We didn't have money to hire an experienced staff. So I interviewed young people who were just begging for a chance. I hired them and trained them as reporters, producers, and cameramen. That experience formed my entire philosophy of management..which basically is...be as close to your people as you can and use your management authority to help them become the best that they can be. In three years, our little station became Number 1...knocking off the great WSB which had been number one for 50 straight years.
As fortune would have it...the owner then sold the station, making a huge profit. The new owners wanted there own people and I found myself looking for a job. Again, I believe God stepped in. In Atlanta I had competed against a station owned by the same company that owned WJW-TV 8 in Cleveland. The manager in Atlanta recommended me to Bill Flynn who had just taken over as TV8's manager. To my great good fortune, I was able to return to Cleveland where I had always wanted to be anyway. We rebuilt the news department there, became number one and stayed number one in all newscasts for 15 years.
Many of TV 3's people were there with me at Channel 8...Dick Russ, Cliff Adkins (pictured), Mike O'Mara, Tom Meyer.THE FUTURE:
As for the future, no...I don't ever want to retire. I have been blessed in many ways and one of the biggest blessings was being allowed to make a living in a business I truly enjoyed and loved. This new consultancy is my newest blessing. It is a real "high" for me to be back inside a television station, especially one as beautiful as TV 3. I love working with Rita, and Maureen and AJ and Lydia and being asked for advice by Romona and Betsy and others. It is so nice to still be remembered and treated so nicely. I also hope that I can help everyone, at least a little.
Some pictures courtesy: clevelandseniors.com
Labels: virgil dominic, where are they now