The Rural We: Rick Levy
Kent resident Rick Levy began his career when television news was developing as an industry. After graduating from the School of Broadcasting at the University of North Carolina, he took a job in the CBS mailroom. He was promoted to a job with “CBS Morning News,” where he sat in on news meetings with the icons of the industry — Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Severeid and others. He went on become sales manager at TV stations in Columbus, New Orleans and Philadelphia, and helped launch “Solid Gold,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Wheel of Fortune” and the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Levy and his wife have lived full time in Kent since 1996, and he has served as a Selectman. Levy will be speaking at the Kent Memorial Library on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. The topic: “The Evolution of Television News as I Lived It.”
I’ve been a news junkie all of my life. While looking back at my life and career, I realized that without thinking about it, my career had paralleled the birth and growth of TV news.
The whole fake news thing really bothered me — I didn’t see news that way. I know news people work hard to find out the truth and stories, through layers, before they get into the paper. A few months ago I was at a restaurant and the bartender told me that her kids came to her and asked, “Mom, what is the truth?” She didn’t know what to say. Kids are struggling to find out what is the truth.
In my talk at the library, I will combine the story of the evolution of TV news as I lived it. Early in my career, I was a lucky kid who was able to sit in with the giants of the industry, hearing them discuss the news stories and the quest for the truth. As my career went on, I went to TV stations in various cities, all during a period when TV news was beginning to grow.
So I watched the news develop, but I was disappointed in what happened. Around 1980, I was working in the TV syndication business, and helped launch “Entertainment Tonight.” The idea was that there was enough news in entertainment. It was quite successful. But suddenly the industry changed, it went from news to entertainment. News had to be entertaining, and that changed the face of the news.
I’ve done my own study, asking hundreds of people, “where do you get the majority of your information today?” They can answer that one. But then I ask, “what is the truth?” People are stumped by that question. I will be tracing the evolution of news from Cronkite to people like Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, who are commentators, not news people. We’ve lost the understanding of the difference.
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