Pam Grimes is an Emmy award winning producer at Superstation WGN-TV in Chicago. She’s been on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for several years and also serves on the Executive Committee.
I set foot in a newsroom for the very first time on January 22, 1973. I was applying for a newsroom secretary’s job at the ABC station in my home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Within minutes of my arrival, bells started clanging and chaos erupted. Back then, breaking news came from Associated Press and United Press International machines with ear splitting sound effects.
A normal office setting instantly transformed into people ripping wire copy, yelling instructions and racing into broadcast booths to read it on air. The Supreme Court had just legalized abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Before I left that day, President Lyndon B. Johnson died, creating a new wave of newsroom excitement. It was a glimpse into a whole new world for me, and I decided that second that the energy of a newsroom is where I belonged. I got the job.
Women were very rare in newsrooms in the early 70s. Timing is everything and I’m living proof. I partially credit Affirmative Action that required newsrooms to hire women and minorities. I wasn’t a very good secretary.
But the news director liked my voice and let me do radio headline news during the Sunday morning Polka Hour. Don’t laugh! It had a HUGE following. They also needed someone to do the weather on the Sunday night television broadcast. I stunk at that too. But nine months later I was hired by one of the best in the
business, news director Grant Price, at KWWL TV, the NBC affiliate in Waterloo. My job was reading radio headlines on the hour and half hour from 2 p.m.-midnight, which left my days free to go to school.
Over the almost decade I was “paying my dues,” I learned to write, edit, report, anchor and eventually produce the No. 1 rated 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.
Over the past 40 years, I’ve played a role in covering major news stories such as the
Challenger explosion, the execution of serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the inauguration of the first black President of the United States. I’ve interviewed world leaders, been chased by tornadoes, and slept in an ice hotel in Alaska. I can honestly say I’ve never been bored one day in this business. And if people tell you news is dead, they forget that good storytelling and solid content never grow old.