Something The Kids Are Missing Out On

News out of the Boston media scene this week: WBZ is buying both sportscaster Bob Lobel and entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawick out of their contracts and sending them home.

I have two reactions to this. For logistical reasons, I have decided to present them in this order:

1) “Damn, what a shame.” If you grew up with WBZ on your dial, you probably muttered something similar when you heard…particularly if at any stage of your childhood there was, you know, a dial on your TV.

Every year, there was Bob Lobel, sitting on a scaffold at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There was Joyce Kulhawick, interviewing the New Kids On The Block when they came home to visit.

Every time the Red Sox blew a three-game lead to ultimately break our hearts and lose the ALCS or the Series, Lobel represented all New England sports fans in delivering the “I’m not angry, son…I guess I’m just disappointed” speech to the Red Sox. “We put a lot of faith and trust in you, and I suppose we shouldn’t have done that.”

It never failed to result in the Sox biting its lower lip, staring glumly at its shoes and feeling real bad about what it had done, and wishing that Lobel was one of those sportscasters who’d just haul off and hit them and make it easy.

And there were times when celebrities blew through town and SOME-body had to go out to the Four Seasons and talk to them. When a covert nest of Nazi spies is headed to the water-purification plant with a tanker truck of rat poison, you send in Captain America. When Jackée Harry refuses to leave town until she has a chance to tell somebody what it’s like to work with Marla Gibbs, you send in Joyce.

Overall, though, as a New Englander you just really liked seeing those familiar faces. Other on-air personalities came in and either moved up to the network or moved down into real estate, but a rare few managed to become a welcome addition to the New England landscape.

This is another item in the list of Things That The Kids Today Are Missing Out On. True, their video games are just flat-out stupidly better than what I had to deal with. But you know what, junior? You’ll never know the momentary, but still genuine, thrill of realizing that the man buying a pack of Carltons ahead of you at the Store 24 in Kenmore Square is the weekend sports guy on Channel 5. I can testify that it’s a jolt of pleasure that can’t even compare with scoring a 100% playing “Through The Fire And Flames” on “Expert.”

(This video game reference is brought to you by Google. Google: helping the ignorant fake their way through things since 1998.)

Alas, Bob and Joyce are just the latest casualties in the media industry’s ongoing and necessary change of underwear. Once again, the “Broadcast News” vision of the future proved spot-on. The logic isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s tough to keep your job when you’ve become a beloved local institution. Career-wise you want to aim for a butter zone where you’re popular enough that the station will fight to keep you but not so important that your salary shoots up to the level where they have to choose between renewing your contract or having two-ply toilet paper in the washrooms.

Or maybe the key to success, oddly enough, is to have a terrible agent. “They offered you a $50,000-a-year bump,” Swifty reports, “but I managed to talk them into moving your parking space closer to the entrance instead.”

If you want to be able to keep making the payments on that lovely home in Belmont…take the parking space. You don’t want to be selling Ferraris in a Toyota economy.

The second reaction:

2) “Gee, it’s been ages since I actually watched the local news.”

Which spells out the problem, and the reason why the era of the Ron Burgundy is over. I still get my news from professional journalists, but I don’t get my news in a way that involves sitting down for thirty minutes at a specific time of day and watching ads for snow tires.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry to see Bob and Joyce go. It’s sort of like when your old grammar school gets torn town. You haven’t even driven past it in ages, but you always enjoyed knowing that it was still there.

9 thoughts on “Something The Kids Are Missing Out On”

  1. Andy,

    That’s sad news. Up here, in the Great White North of Northern Vermont, we used to get WBZ when I was a kid, and those two names jump out at me pretty strongly in the same way. Along with them, Tom Bergeron and Jack Williams (god, I actually remember his little segment ‘Wednesday’s Child’ for some reason), it was our nightly news, mostly because the local news was so bad.

    It’s been years and years since WBZ was even on our dials, though, replaced by new, low-fi local affiliates. So, I have the same second reaction, as well.

  2. Google: helping the ignorant fake their way through things since 1998.

    That is the funniest line i have seen in awhile !!

    Also, being in the media (newspaper) business i know all about the cutting and bleeding that is going on. Alot of younger generations are going to miss out on the “personality” given by these long time newscasters and journalists. While almost anyone can write or talk the news, it takes talent to do it in a good way that makes it interesting and enjoyable. I would rather read on of your witty and informative articles than wade through a blather of inane blog posts or dead pan sounding briefs.

    Andy Ihnatko: Brining the guffaw in tech to you since 1988 (at least thats when i found ya)

  3. My high school chemistry teacher/newspaper faculty advisor had a permanent crush on Joyce Kulhawick. As for Lobel, that man managed to get Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Larry Bird in the studio all at the same time. He may be an absolute nut, but when I wanted to watch local sports coverage, there was only one man I wanted to see. Just so I could hear him ask, rhetorically, “Why can’t we get players like that?”

    A sad day for Boston, really. Although it makes me feel old, they don’t make ’em like that anymore.

    Oh yes. I do recall the dials on the TV. Those were the days when *I* was the remote control.

  4. Here in RI, most of us certainly miss the option of catching Boston news since cable came along, but Bob and Joyce were two of my favorites. On the radio side of things, it’s worse. One person to voice track for several stations; people let go left and right. I was a victim of that in March, although it was mutual. I just wish I had had a contract! I wouldn’t be eating Ramen noodles every day.

  5. Ever since the “eye-job” I’ve had a hard time watching Bob Lobel. Same quality content, just tough to stomach the new “look”. The sportscaster I really miss is Bob Gamere.

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