As we reported last week, reporter Glenn Zimmerman left WNBC when the station chose not to renew his contract at the end of the year.
Zimmerman spent three years at WNBC, most prominently on the weekday Today in New York.
He wasn’t surprised by not being kept, knowing that the business can be fickle.
“Sometimes your commodity has expired for whatever reason.”
In Zimmerman’s case, he was told by management that “the contract came up at the wrong time and they’re moving in a different direction.”
Despite being a talented and passionate reporter, Zimmerman says it was important to have an insurance policy.
“I think that in preparation for the future you always need to have something in your back pocket, and you’re thinking about moving forward in this business—I think more so than ever right now,” Zimmerman admits to FishbowlNY.
Making it more tenuous for Zimmerman (who has young children with his wife–Fox 5 meteorologist Shay Ryan), were the massive cutbacks and newsroom operations overhaul shortly after he was hired late 2007. Several reporters and anchors were let go, perhaps most notably—veteran sportscaster Len Berman.
“I got there and everything went boom. …WNBC had a way of doing things and it did the same thing for a number of years, and it worked very well for a number of years,” Zimmerman says. “In the period just before I arrived, it started not working for whatever reason.”
“Two months after I got there the sky opened up and everybody around me was freaking out, and they were freaking out for a very different reason than what I was freaking out with.” Zimmerman recalls. “I was thinking to myself, ‘What did I just land on? This is just a crazy ride.’”
So Zimmerman’s debut in New York (he had previously worked in Detroit) quickly showed him a new look to the historic WNBC.
“I watched as everything was literally ripped apart—both physically and figuratively—and then reassembled… in a different format…with a purpose.”
In an effort to use many platforms, by 2009 WNBC ushered in the “content center” for its newsroom gathering. The creation of the content center went hand in hand with their digital channel New York Nonstop, which premiered that prior fall.
“There are new places that are exploring it [his reporting]. Let’s see what works, let’s see what doesn’t,” A confident Zimmerman recalls. “Let’s see how the public interacts with me after we deliver these new products.”
He says it was personal learning experience. But, Zimmerman also learned something else about that time at WNBC.
“I watched, everybody around had no control, Zimmerman admits. “Whether or not it’s a good thing or a bad thing in whoever’s mind, they had no control of the direction, and that spoke to me very, very loudly. …Our lives were just being pulled in every which way but loose.”
Zimmerman, 39, refers to his days at WNBC as “interesting” and “educational.” Thinking about it longer, he considers most of his tenure with Channel 4 as a “sad time.”
“Being in the middle of a crisis is by no means fun, as it was, no question, a crisis,” Zimmerman admits. “People were all around me panicking.”
Despite recognizing what WNBC was doing as “revolutionary,” it became abundantly clear for Zimmerman that the time was right to start a separate venture– Mad Bear Productions.
“We want to allow businesses, non-profits—we want to give them a voice.” Zimmerman says. “…It’s a voice that’s honest and straight-forward. It’s not a voice that’s trying to fool anybody. It’s not a voice that’s trying to cover something up.”
Zimmerman, who runs Mad Bear with a partner, says the sky’s the limit.
“We can tell stories ranging from 10 seconds, as just a little blurb embedded into a game on a Droid or an Iphone, or we can tell feature length documentaries.”
Before moving ahead, though, Zimmerman says, while most people wouldn’t enjoy getting up before the crack of dawn, those were among his fondest memories at Channel 4.
“The morning crew that I worked with most of the time, [was a] really good, good group of people. Everybody looked out for each other,” Zimmerman recalls. “In a lot of ways, the Today in New York group was separate from everybody in the newsroom because we worked such strange hours; nobody else was really around us.”