A GM Who Made You Feel Like You Made a Difference

My wife and I have been cleaning out our attic and one of my tasks was to go through boxes and boxes of old papers that had accumulated there since we moved in more than 19 years ago.  Actually, some of the boxes contained papers that I had collected since I was in high school so you can imagine how much stuff is in our attic.  Anyway, I was going through the various boxes of records and ran across several notes that I had received from the person who was GM at the time at WREG.   The GM was Olin Morris who had served as a morning show host for many years on WREG before moving into the sales department and working his way up the corporate ladder to the GM post.  When I arrived at the station Down On The River in February 1989, OM made a big deal about welcoming me into the “family”.  Now understand, I had been “blue skyed” by managers before and was a little gun-shy.  (For those not familiar with that concept, that’s when a manager puts his or her arm around your shoulder while waving the free hand to the sky,  making promises and commitments that he/she knows really can’t be kept and knows that you probably know they can’t be kept but it sounds good in a sales pitch sort of way).  So when I received a hand-written note from OM a few weeks after I started work at WREG telling me that he had been watching my progress and that he really felt I was making a difference, I have to admit that I was feeling a little skeptical.  This, especially in light of the fact that the EP/Asst. ND had just raked me over the coals.  But the notes from the GM came on a regular basis and not just to me but to everyone in the newsroom and in fact the building. They usually came on a  special occasion such as your birthday or the anniversary of your employment pr the holidays and while some portions may have been typewritten, there was usually a hand-written personal note and it was almost always done in calligraphy thanking you for your effort to make the station a better place.   OM always had great penmanship too.  All of this and the station probably had maybe 150 employees.  (best guess on my part)

Olin Morris always pushed the concept of “family” at WREG.  That’s not to say he couldn’t get mad and according to some, be vindictive.  But he really pushed the team/family concept and helped drive home the point with the hand-written notes.  He was visibly choked up when he stepped down from his post as GM.  It was not IMHO, the “faked sincerity” that I’ve encountered too many times.  I  always felt OM meant what he said.  So as  I re-read the notes that Olin Morris  had  written me so many  years ago I decided that  of all the things I would toss in the trash for recycling,  these would NOT be tossed.  I’m keeping these.  You see, in his efforts to let me know that I made a difference, HE made a difference.  You don’t see that much anymore.

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9 Comments on “A GM Who Made You Feel Like You Made a Difference”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    I concur. Olin’s notes were timely and thoughtful, and completely unique in my experiences with television managers.

    I admit that it often seemed like my career was more about burning bridges that building them, not even the managers I got along with would reach out to their employees like Olin did (and that includes me when I was a manager).

    And about that EP/Asst. ND — he was a professional coal-raker — he did that to everybody; unless they were bigger than he was.

  2. The GM Says:

    Two notes:
    One, I didn’t personally know Olin Morris but know many who did both in the biz and in the Memphis community. All say he was a great guy.

    Two. You just explained the power of a hand written note.

    The GM

    P.S. Another great guy, the late Bud Dudley.

  3. Ready Camera One, Take Two Says:

    Kind of like Mason Granger in his GM days. I never had to undergo the fateful red pen re-write during his news director days but when I had my tonsils removed (not by him although I have seen Frank Gardner reach into some throats) he sent 3 half-gallons of Bryers ice cream to the house. He cared about his people. I still have notes of thanks or simple recognition. It made a difference. What a concept, a general manager with a heart. (Applegate take note.)

  4. Lew Jetton Says:

    Back in the 80s, I was offered a job at Ft. Smith, Arkansas and met with the GM there. He said some things that kind of made me uncomfortable about working there, so I turned the job down. A few weeks or months later, he was replaced by Olin Morris. I remember thinking that had I known that was going to happen, I would have eagerly gone to Ft. Smith. Sadly, that was as close as I ever got to working for Olin…..one of the “good guys.”

  5. Olin was a class act all the way. He was the guy who made my mid south bureau gig finally happen, while others pushed paper around and scratched their, uh, watches…. And like you say, whatever kind of crap was happening in the newsroom with other managers, he was always a nice guy taking time to show interest. He would even write notes on my freelance checks complimenting my work before actually becoming a NYT full timer.

    The”biz” would do well to have folks like Olin return!

  6. Todd Says:

    Olin believed in me before I believed in myself. As I arrived in Memphis back in April of 86, he allowed me to take over many of the “on air” hosting duties that he had done for years and years. (think Mid-South Youth talent shows, grand finals) It was a great confidence builder for me, and I too, found his short notes encouraging, thoughtful and uplifting. Olin was a great influence on my career, I’m thrilled he was there as I began my career.

  7. Paul Says:

    I can echo the same for Mason as a GM and even before as a ND. Yes, he was famous for making you feel you were still in school when you got the famous “see me” written on your script and stuffed into your mailbox (pre-email days folks), but it was done to make you BETTER. Likewise you would just as often find compliments on a story that he liked. Mason was a master at “instant feedback” regarding your work. Mason would even take extra copies of the script and repeat the compliment (handwritten) to photographers for well shot and edited stories. A simple and very effective means of building a strong newsroom. Mason was also very good at “personal touches” like the birthday or anniversary card. I vividly remember when my son was born, he was quick and kind with his handwritten congratulations.

  8. JW Says:

    With all due respect to Olin, the rock upon which WREG was built was Charlie Brakefield. I saw more of the other side of Olin, maybe because I was behind the scene instead of on camera. I also received “special pal” notes as did all of my co-workers at the station…..that many “special pals” tends to devalue your status as a “special pal”. When the words class act are used, I think of only one person and that person was MR. Brakefield. In my opinion his retirement ended the concept of “family” at WREG. Although his retirement party was one hellva a party, the head of CBS, everyone that was anyone at NYT. Both studios decked out in circus theme………

  9. the tall tv guy Says:

    With changes in technology, layoffs, takeovers, etc, the sense of a family environment at work is quickly fading away. The corporate environment is now the norm. Very impersonal and cold, people usually end up leaving or even change careers to get away from it. In pursuing permanent employment, I hope to avoid this in the future.

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