“This is a shooting on the Beltway, people! This is something people care about! Because it could-happen to them! Rush hour traffic! Unsuspecting drivers!”
We’re in a basement TV studio at the University of Maryland. Maury Povich is teaching us how to become TV anchorpeople. In a room down the hall, our other instructor, veteran TV news producer Herb Brubaker, is teaching eight more would-be Brokaws and Rathers the finer points of writing TV news copy. For Jaycee Cooper and the others, this is serious business. They’ve paid $500 each for a day of intensive training from Brubaker and Povich, who used to be an anchorman before he became, well, “Maury!”
Lured by Povich’s star power, my classmates have come from all over-Orlando, Los Angeles, Dallas, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Charleston. Some are kids still in college. Most are TV pros looking to move on or up.
Maury and Herb explain the drill. Everyone gets one rehearsal behind the desk, and then the cameras roll. Herb hands out a three-page script that contains the four packages, or complete voice-and-tape stories, that we’ll be presenting.
“This isn’t acting school,” Brubaker says forcefully. “We’re not Barbie and Ken dolls. We’re journalists.” He certainly knows whereof he speaks; he’s been in the business since the early 1960s, which is when he met and first worked with Povich, who was then a radio reporter.
Over the years, Brubaker has worked as a producer for dozens of anchors and reporters, including the inimitable Irving R., Levine and Jessica Savitch, the late “golden girl” anchor of the 1970s whose personal life was so glamorously tragic that she ‘ became the subject of two posthumous feature films. He now trains amateurs and pros alike through his nonprofit consulting company, the Television News Center, headquartered in Rockville.
“Good journalism sells the news,” he says. “As this business gets more and more competitive, that’s the thing that distinguishes one competitor from another.”