Perspective. It’s something a lot of current and former newspeople were thinking about Monday. The passing of Norm Brewer, longtime commentator at NewsChannel 3 got many of us thinking about the work he did and the work we did. Before he came to WREG, Norm was at WMC, so over the years many of us had the opportunity to work with him.
I didn’t always see eye to eye with former Channel 3 general manager Bob Eoff, but he did a very smart thing when he came back to Memphis to run the station. While the people in all the newsrooms in town work very hard, there isn’t always institutional memory or the time to look at issues with context. Bringing in Brewer and George Lapides showed that Eoff recognized a need and took advantage of an excellent opportunity to tap into their years of experience.
On occasion, news directors at 3 would be smart enough to consult Norm for background on things occurring in Memphis. One of the downsides of the business is that the people who run newsrooms are a lot like the managers of baseball teams; they come and go based on the needs of the station at the time. Driving ratings, putting together anchor teams, getting new equipment for the weather team take up a lot of time for news directors, who often have little or no long-term connection to the cities where they work. Having a resource with the brains, class and insight of Norm Brewer took some of the load off of the news directors who were smart enough to listen to him.
I was thinking along those lines over the last few days anyway, after the retirement of Bernie Mintz, longtime shooter and assignment editor. 50 years of doing anything is amazing, but in this business, it’s downright incredible. Especially in one market. I lasted in news about half that time, but I worked in 9 different markets! I never met Bernie personally, but I worked news in Memphis long enough to know that he worked assignments better than most. While people who work on assignment desks should get out of their stations from time to time and actually talk to the people they cover and help report on, the limitations of most local newsrooms keep that from happening. Some assignment editors don’t take the time, more often, I think newsrooms are understaffed to the point that managers are afraid to let desk people leave the room out of fear that something coming across on one of the police scanners. I don’t want to forget the years of hard work by Leon Griffin, who, like Mintz, is also retiring from WHBQ.
I noted a Facebook comment from former Channel 3 co-worker Bevan Bell about Norm’s passing. “R.I.P. Norm Brewer. News never dies.” Way to put things in perspective, Bevan. The greats retire or pass away, but their memory, their experience, their influence remains for the people who continue the work. I am anxious, and hopeful, that there are people working in Memphis news who will be the next Mintz and the next Brewer, because news, as the man said, never dies.