As the year winds down and everyone starts rushing towards the shiny, nebulous possibilities of 2017, I find myself looking back at 2016 and the moments that made me proud to be a woman in public media… as well as the moments that left me thinking, “Huh, we still have a ways to go, don’t we?”
Thigh-deep in orange mud, I looked to my right and saw Ja San Gawlu, my fixer for the week, in the same situation- both of us with our bodies being devoured by mercury-contaminated remnants of a gold mine that had been shut down by the government earlier that week. As I looked over Ja San’s eyes met mine, and she began to smile, letting out an amused laugh that pierced the rainy sky between us. It was just one of many moments that week that I felt forever grateful for her and every other fixer I have worked with.
Joy Browne was like a one-of-a-kind, specialty Mattel Barbie doll, limited edition. She had a Ph.D. from Northeastern. She went on to Tufts University School of Medicine, though never finished because she was lured into broadcasting in 1978 by WITS-AM in Boston. And during her nearly 40-year radio career she authored a shelf full of books, hosted two television shows, became a regular expert go-to guest appearing on such programs as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live. She landed a role in an off-Broadway play for three weeks. And at the age of 70, she learned to ride an adult-sized tricycle – to get to and from the grocery store.
That she was one of the most intelligent broadcasters in our industry was no secret. But what fueled her mind was something that boggled most of us – something unique to Joy Browne – her x-factor, the very thing that made her a lasting star in her field. It had no name exactly… though today, we may want to call it, well, the “Joy” factor. She spoke with heart. Unlike the slightly caustic tone of other psychologist/talk show hosts when handling callers, Joy stepped into the role of everyone’s big sister and drove home intelligent direction, while always providing hope. Always. She cared deeply.
But also on air, she weaved in upbeat theatrics – no surprise, considering her lifestyle. For most of her career, when she’d leave the radio station after a three-hour program, she was off on her jam-packed “other life” of theater, film, restaurant-openings, and even dancing. If ever you glanced at her wallet-sized daily calendar, you’d see how compressed her already-tiny-handwriting was so to squeeze in her hourly activities. She was “Joy-on-the-run.”
Just like the American icon Barbie doll, Joy had an outfit for every occasion – another signature trait. Only five months ago, she invited me to step into her train car-length bedroom closet. It was busting with colors – only blindingly so. I felt I had stepped inside a box of Crayola crayons – but the modern kind made with sparkles.
I was reminded of a story from a producer at WOR Radio back in the early 1990s the day before a group of advertisers were scheduled to drop by. The general manager demanded that the producer convince Joy to “please-please-pleeeease tell her to tone down her outfit for the next day… NO hot-pink-clingy-numbers. We are a heritage radio station with an image to maintain.” He obviously did not know that “stodgy” and “gray” did not exist in Joy’s vocabulary or closet. She returned the next day in a purple and black suit – with a frilly-flirty chemise peaking out from beneath.
I first got to meet Joy back in 1986 when, as a talk show producer, I was asked to fill in on her show at the last minute when her regular producer had the flu. I swore I would NEVER become one of those producer-types who tried to snare advice about a personal problem. But in typical fashion – and something I witnessed a million times over – Joy could and would laser-beam into a producer’s psyche as skillfully as she did with callers and lured OUT the trouble. Yes, on this particular day, I spilled.
The gist – my upcoming birthday was in five days – and a boyfriend of two years had just broken up with me. Like many 25-year olds, I was drowning in drama wondering how would I survive. The clincher? Come the big day, there was no word from the boyfriend, but I did get a surprise phone call from my new friend Joy Browne. She invited me out for a double-layer chocolate cake at the corner pastry shop.
Dr. Joy to the rescue.
Bernadette Duncan is author of YAPPY DAYS: Behind the Scenes with Newsers, Schmoozers, Boozers and Losers (AuthorHouse/TalkersBooks, 2016), a breezy memoir about her 26 years as a talk show producer, working with such high-profile talent as Larry King, Tom Snyder, Sally Jessy Raphael, Lou Dobbs, Charlie Osgood, and more.
Do you ever wonder what you would change if you knew THEN what you know NOW?
When I set my heart on a career in sports radio in high school and started pursuing my dream in college, no one warned me about the challenges of being a female in a “man’s world.” A tomboy when I was young, I was always comfortable around guys, and I could hold my own whether we were talking sports or playing them. As I began working in radio, I did what came naturally to me. I tried to be “one of the guys.” It didn’t work. Despite my best attempts, I was always the odd one out. But that was only part of the challenge.
On a dry, hot afternoon I found myself walking through the streets of downtown Yangon, unwinding after a particularly emotional interview with a woman who had given herself an abortion just three months before, her face grave and unmoving as she told me her story.
After the interview, I knew I needed to collect my thoughts so I went to a bookstore, looking for something to occupy my mind. Moving through the shelves, picking up anything I could find in English, I came across a magazine: Frontier Myanmar. Upon opening its pages I was greeted with two-page spreads of color photos, well-designed infographics and news. Picture after picture pulled me in, almost all of them having the same credit line: Ann Wang.
It was a privilege for me to join AWM as an Honorary Trustee this year. 2016 will be a year of exciting growth and change for us, as evidenced by this new website (among other things that are in the works). I was eager to become involved with AWM because my company reflects one of its core values…advancing the role of women in media, and in our case, local television broadcasting.Read More
I was sitting in the hotel room in London when I decided to flip on the telly Friday night. It had been a long week – multiple flights and too many meetings – and I figured watching some British entertainment would allow me to relax.
18 Dead in Paris Shooting…100 Hostages…Bombing at International Football Match…
I lived in Paris from 2004-2006. I pictured the cafes, the busy Friday night family outings. I could hear the jazz and assorted languages stream from the venues. For as much as Paris is quintessentially the capital of France, it is also one of those places that truly belongs to the world. It is the City of Love.
As parents, my husband and I try to limit our daughter’s screen time to mostly educational children’s shows such as “Sesame Street” and “Super Why!” But let’s be honest here: there are days where work and school completely does us in and we want to do nothing more than zone out in front of the television. Herein lies my current media obsession: finding entertaining-TV-shows-that-we-can-watch-in-front-of-our-children-but-do-not-feature-any-sort-of-cartoon-character-or-singing. You would think it would be an easy task considering we have more accessible channels now compared to 30 years ago. Yet, gone are the days of “Full House,” “Mork & Mindy” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” that used to compete for screen time at my parents’ house growing up.