And So It Goes: Adventures in Television

Ellerbee, Linda

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1986

p. 14

Someone at WCBS (NY) decided that the regular anchor, Jim Jensen, ought to have a partner, a co-anchor, a fellow “fresh to the big city, fresh to big-city ways.” Jensen behaved graciously to the new gun in town, whose name was also Jim. But sometimes the new boy slipped or babbled on the air. Nobody at WCBS wanted to admit their error. “So they told the two Jims to be more friendly-like on the air, to chat with each other, like pals. They should ask each other about the news stories. Right. There was this one night. The Jims were on the air. Jensen read a story. The next story was to be read by the new Jim. All he had to do was read the words from the TelePrompTer, and what was written on the TelePrompTer was all the new or the old Jim knew about this particular story. There was no tape. The script on the TelePrompTer went something like this: ‘There was a five alarm fire this afternoon in the South Bronx. Three people were killed. Firemen say they suspect arson.’ There was no more information available. Here’s what happened. Jim Jensen finished reading the story which came before. They shared a prompter–each man could see what the other was to read. When Jensen finished his story, he turned to the new kid and did exactly what management had told him to do; he talked to the new Jim about the news. ‘Well, I see you’re about to tell us about that terrible fire this afternoon up in the South Bronx. I don’t know much about it, but I understand it went to five alarms and that three people were killed. I hear the fire department thinks it was arson, but, gee, let me shut up now. What can you tell us about the story?’ Folks, that’s how it’s done downtown.”