There are so many people to thank for my TV career. One of those is Walter Gold who is executive director of the DC Fire & EMS Museum and has been a long time member of the Friendship Fire Association. Walter, a veteran newsman, first introduced me to management at Channel 9 in the early 1980s when he pitched my services as a tipster.
At about the same time, there were a number of local TV reporters who encouraged me to make the move from radio to television. They included Mary Norton and Brian Williams at Channel 5 (Brian had also been a volunteer firefighter) and Larry Shainman at Channel 4.
Then there is the man who may have been the best TV reporter this market has ever seen, Mike Buchanan. Mike was the one who convinced news director Dave Pearce to hire me.
Once at Channel 9 it was the photographers and editors who molded this skinny radio guy into a TV reporter.
But probably the biggest influence on my career came from the person you will see in the videos above and below, Rich Adams.
I first met Rich around 1977. As one of the first Cardiac Rescue Technicians in Prince George’s County, Chief Jim Estepp had asked me to join him and PIO Duncan Munro for a TV broadcast at Channel 9. Rich was the producer of the “Town Hall” meeting probing the state of EMS in the region. Bob Strickland and Gordon Peterson hosted the two-part broadcast. It was my first appearance on Channel 9, eight years before I was hired (I’d love to find that tape).
Watching Rich in action at Broadcast House, made it clear he had successfully melded his love of EMS with his job as a journalist. Rich was an active member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, Maryland. His monthly columns in Firehouse were a must read for those in EMS.
We really got to know each other well starting in 1982 after I began working at WTOP Radio in the Stuart Petroleum Building next door to Channel 9 (both stations used to be in the same building when they were owned by The Washington Post). It was through Rich that I met his close friend Hal Bruno. Hal is someone I had long been a fan of. In my mind those two set the standard on combining journalism with a passion for fire and EMS.
For Rich it was very much an advocacy type of journalism. As editorial director he was the voice of TV station management in taking positions on important community issues. Just like the editorial page in any newspaper, TV stations across the country used to provide these opinions on a regular basis, usually adjacent to a newscast. But Rich did something very different than the average editorial director. He made public safety, particularly EMS and fire, a priority.
From my perspective, the influence of Rich Adams on the delivery of fire and EMS in and around the Nation’s Capital was immense. His knowledge and experience, plus his TV pulpit, allowed him to influence policy and light a fire under political leaders, fire chiefs and others when needed. And when things didn’t change for the better, Rich stayed on the case.
That role has not been filled since Channel 9 stopped doing editorials in the 1990s and Rich moved over to the news department assignment desk before heading out on his own. Rich died in 1996.
Don’t just take my word about Rich’s legacy. Watch these editorials.
The video at the top of this post is a February, 1982 series Rich did on the region’s capabilities in the face of disaster. He talks about the lessons learned from January 13 of that year when the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the icy Potomac River occurred moments before a deadly Metro train derailment underground in nearby Southwest Washington. I contend the results of the prodding by Rich (and it went well beyond this series of reports) can be directly linked to the regional response almost 20-years later at the Pentagon on September 11.
The second video consists of two editorials by Rich focusing on the April, 1982 fire that destroyed the Filene Center at Wolf Trap Farm Park. In the second editorial he keys in on a pretty dismal fire safety record by the federal government in the form of the National Park Service.
I am not sure there was ever anywhere else in the country that had an such an important advocate on TV regularly focusing on fire and EMS.
I often think if he was still with us that a blog or website would have been the perfect outlet for Rich Adams. I can assure you that Adams911 would have been much more interesting than STATter911.
Also on STATter911 …
- Public safety in the digital age: Blogger surrounded by police broadcasts the negotiations live on the Internet. – December 2, 2012
- Helmet-cam: House fire in Adams Township, PA. – January 8, 2013
- DC Fire & EMS Department looking at encryption of radio channels. Navy Yard shooting cited as example. – November 20, 2013
- The passing of Chief Tom Carr – April 24, 2013
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