by Paul Conley
Years ago when I was a college student, I dated a woman whose father was a television executive.
He must have seen something in me that he liked, because he spent a lot of time teaching me what he knew about media. Those lessons are at the core of what I believe today about the communications business. And it amazes me that so few executives seem to know what he knew.
He’d entered television back in the earliest days of the medium. After getting his discharge from World War II, he drifted for a while before going to college on the G.I. Bill. And it was at college that he began paying attention to television — the then-nascent technology that combined sound with audio.
He was a bit of a news junkie — obsessed with both newspapers and radio. And he found himself bemused to see that the earliest news programs often consisted of nothing more than someone reading a script into a camera.
But there was another model out there too — the newsreels that played in movie theaters.
The newsreels seemed a better fit for television.
And sure enough, some of the big-money players moved in that direction.
In early 1948, NBC launched the Camel Newsreel Theatre, featuring the voice of John Cameron Swayze. Three other newsreel based shows also debuted that year — two on the DuMont network and one on CBS…