NAB/RTNDA: “A Damn Fine Irishman”

By Brian 

TVNewser NAB blogger Scott Baker writes:

“Remember the old step for crafting a personal mission statement?

Imagine what you would want people to say at your funeral. Then,
live a life worthy of that.

On that measure, Don Fitzpatrick certainly demonstrated what a rich
legacy looks like. RTNDA Chair Dan Shelley took time to talk about
Fitz even before the convention really got underway. I suppose you
can measure the quality of an industry by the qualities of the people
they choose to esteem.”

I can’t claim to have known Don Fitzpatrick very well. But, he had a
significant impact on me. I remember paying $250 a year to access
Shoptalk on the old Compuserve journalism forum. It was the world. As
a young reporter in Erie, Pa., I filed away that Don was originally
from Pittsburgh and that one of the first people he ever place was a
weather guy from Erie.

At an RTNDA in the late 1980s, I made sure to encounter Don. I
played the Erie card. But with Don, you didn’t really need to play a
card at all. With even the most green college prospects, Don put you
at ease and offered advice. He was a truly powerful gatekeeper, but
he never made you feel like that mattered.

I came to my current job a dozen years ago in part because my
company picked up a tape from Fitz. I recently found that old tape. A
prior news director had handed it back to me at some point. Inside, I
found a letter inside from the Fitzpatrick team to a corporate
executive in New York. The letter shared their impressions of me.
Far too generous impressions. The kinds you only hope to emulate. And
they never knew I would ever see that letter. But the was Don. Very
much about building up.

That came through at the wake held for Don at an Irish pub tucked
inside the New York, New York Casino. Steve Tallal, Rick Gevers,
Michael Espinoza and a few others talked about a man who loved
television news and the people who make it happen.

A year ago at RTNDA, Scott Jones from FTVLive invited me to a small
dinner with Don. Don and Scott had not always gotten along. But they
had come to terms and very well. Last night, Jonesy, like all of us
at the wake, wore buttons with Don’s picture and the words, “A damn
fine Irish wake for a damn fine Irishman.”

I happened to see part of an evening newscast in Los Angeles on
Saturday night. I smiled when I saw an old friend. A young woman who
had come to a seminar I taught on media careers. I remember giving
her advice in the early years. I remember seeing her at one of the
2004 political conventions. She had a microphone in her hand and a
lock on a politician who was trying to be elusive. I smiled then too.

I realized that the satisfaction I feel in moments like that, Don
Fitzpatrick probably got to feel 40 times a day. That’s a life.