Remember when sets had TWO channel selectors, one for VHF and another for UHF?

First Person | Puff-licity

By Reno Bailey

Back in 1967, after half a decade of production work at WBT-FM had ground my patience and creativity to a nub, I grabbed an opportunity to get into a whole new line of work. I joined the WBTV promotion department as "publicity supervisor." Larry Harding was head of the department, and others who toiled in that vineyard included Fuzzy Prevatte, Betty Crocker and Marian Verner.

Larry Harding

In those years, getting the station's name before the public by all available means was a big priority. My job was to create a weekly "press packet," which consisted of 10 or 12 promotional 8x10 photos of network and local personalities or shows—for which I'd write and attach pithy captions ("Sgt. Shultz comes up empty-handed on 'Hogan's Heroes,' Saturday night at 9:00, in color, on WBTV, Channel 3" or some such drivel).

I would also include in the packets a number of fluffy "press releases," some sent down from CBS ("Arleen Francis Celebrates 10th Anniversary on 'What's My Line?'"), and some that I myself would write on different subjects, such as Eileen Fulton, a North Carolina girl who was all the rage in the sixties on "As the World Turns." Or Betty Feezor's hobbies, or Doug Mayes' love of country music.

I'd send these packets to about 30 newspapers in the area. Do the math. That's 360 8x10s, 360 captions (or "cut lines," as we journalists called them) pasted onto the photos, 30 copies of each press release. It was mostly grunt work: copying, pasting, sorting, collating, copying, stapling, packaging, attaching postage. Did I mention sorting?

Our department subscribed to—and was awash in—all those newspapers. They were all pored over daily and all references to WBTV clipped out, identified and quantified. And each week Larry would march to the managers' meeting with a detailed report on, among other things, how many column inches on WBTV the publicity section (that would be me) was able to place that week in the area's press.

One day I sat down at the IBM Selectric and whacked out a few thoughts of my own in an 800-word article about the current (1968) state of television programming. I included it and my photo in the next packet, having no idea it would ever see the light of day (usually at the Daily Bugle these fluff pieces got thrown in the trash).

Much to my dismay, several papers actually ran it, treating it as if it were a missive from on high from the likes of CBS Chairman William S. Paley, or Charles Crutchfield, not some mere functionary with access to a typewriter. The Gastonia Gazette filled a half page with it, with my photo occupying a hefty four by five inches of the total.

It was a good week. Larry's report looked very impressive.

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