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  • Writer's pictureHollis Robbins

Great Thanksgiving conversations

One of the best multi-generation Thanksgiving gathering conversation topics is: "jobs from which you have been fired." You can't play this every year; every five to seven years is ideal as new stories are added and epic repeated tales are refined and embroidered upon. Also sometimes you forget one and it comes back to you.

I remembered this year about a job as an overnight news writer for WCVB-Channel 5 in Boston in the summer or fall of 1985. I'd come in at 11:00 pm, watch the late night newscast in the newsroom, and take notes for which stories would need an update for the morning local news "break ins" during Good Morning America. That was the job, or most of it. In these days before the internet it meant spending most of the night listening to the radio and the police scanner and watching the teletype machine. If there were a big fire or a big accident it meant calling hospitals and wheedling details out of whoever answered the phone. It meant when camera crews were sent out to scenes of shootings and robberies, getting the details from the crews for the 15-second versions of the report. It meant writing 10-second, 15-second, 30-second versions of everything. It meant I knew what an elevator pitch was long before I knew what an elevator pitch was.

But the part of the job I always forgot to do was cue up the videotape in the control room so that when the talent said (reading words I'd written): "A massive fire in Chelsea last night nearly claimed the lives of three small children and family dog," the appropriate videotape would play. The first time I forgot, and the talent had to scramble as a 100-year old birthday party appeared, I was chastised but forgiven. The second time, it was unclear whose fault it was and I escaped. The third time, a month or so later, I was fired on the spot.


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