Thursday, June 14, 2007

Steve Powers makes the Daily News

Steve Powers taught us the television news business. Blame him.

Steve's the guy who took the time to show us how to write news copy, how to write the way people talk. And along the way he's been a great pal. Dr. Steve Powers, Ph.D, co-author of the book How To Watch TV News, even wrote some nice words for the book jacket copy of Tabloid Baby. He's not only one of the best newsmen in New York City, he's a true renaissance man and musician who's quitting his day job after a career that went from radio to the top of the television news business as reporter and anchorman at WNEW's legendary 10 O'Clock News, to a catbird's seat in the New York Times newsroom as the formerly Gray Lady's voice on WQXR Radio in Times Square-- with a stop in tabloid television along the way.

Steve left WQXR to get back to his book writing and so he got an article in the NY Daily News today:

From JFK to 'QXR: Powers signs off

Steve Powers, who just retired after 45 years as a New York radio and TV newsman, has seen a whole lot of changes in the news game since he was a young reporter meeting President John F. Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden.

Nor does he think they're finished.

"I went into TV [in 1980] because after I'd gotten to know Roger Grimsby, I was convinced TV was the future," he says. "When I look at the future now, I think TV news as we've known it will disappear."

He doesn't mean people won't want information, or won't turn to TV to get it. He means scheduled evening newscasts, for instance, will be supplanted by cable networks, cell phones and other means of getting stories in a more timely fashion.
He's already seen traditional radio news shrink to a fraction of its old size.

"My first New York job was at WMCA, and when I got there, we had a news staff of 13," he says. "WNEW and others had huge staffs then, and there was this tremendous competition in covering every story."

Then WINS went all-news, and the FCC loosened news requirements for local radio. Today, most stations pay only cursory attention to news.

But Powers, who spent his most recent years as a newsman at WQXR (96.3 FM) after leaving Ch. 5 in 1993, doesn't see the situation as all bleak.

"At my first radio job, in Ansonia, Conn., the news we covered was all local," he says. "If someone fainted in the mall, we reported it. I think today we're getting back to that - covering the community."

One thing he didn't foresee was the rise of talk radio, even though he was an early practitioner of that craft at WMCA.
"If I'd seen where it would go," he says with a laugh, "I might never have left it."

But he moved on to an eventful career. His Ch. 5 crew was chased by a mob during the Crown Heights riots, and he played onstage at the Blue Note with Dizzy Gillespie, which he rightly calls "as big a thrill as anyone could have in a lifetime."

"I always loved music," he says. "But I had to put it on the shelf because the news profession demands so much time."

One perk of retirement is more music time, he says, and he's also finishing a revision of "How to Watch TV News," a book he wrote with Neil Postman. He also continues doing health reports for WQXR.

He has an idea for another book, on the history of news, but he admits he still hasn't quite gotten into the rhythm of retirement. He follows newscasts, he says, "less to get information than to see what choices they made about playing stories."

He also finds he is still aware of the deadline cycles that govern life in the news biz.

"My immediate goal," he says, "is to get to the point where I'm not always aware of exactly what time it is."


elli in israel said...

it was one of the professional pleasures of my life to work with a guy like steve powers, who always took the time to help out a rookie trying to find his way in the business.

i wish him all the best in "retirement."

Frank Grimes said...

Steve Powers is a classy gentleman, the kind of guy who pulled younger, less experienced reporters/producers aside and gave then advice in a gentle manner. Steve Powers is a giver, a sharer.
I met Steve Powers in January of 1985. I was being given a tryout as a reporter for Channel 5 (thanks to John Parsons and John Miller). Steve was one of the reporters breaking me into the TV News Biz.
Steve taught me some basic things about news-gathering, but his more important gift to me was what I learned by watching his calm, intelligent manner when dealing with pettiness from people who weren't qualified to shine his shoes, much less be in charge of him in a newsroom.
Steve Powers is a pro. In the past I've thanked him for his guidance, and I am writing here to repeat myself, to let him know that his voice still rings in my ears as I go about the task of, not only telling stories, but living life.
Thank-you, Steve. Buena Suerte.
Frank Grimes NY, NY