I had a fun interview with Byron Harmon, WNYW New York VP/news director, for the Fifth Estater profile that’s in the new issue. Byron has had a pretty incredible rise in TV news. After fighting in Iraq during Desert Storm, Harmon went to college on the GI Bill and landed a weekend producing job at WBRZ Baton Rouge. Within three years, he’d attained his lifelong goal of working in New York—joining WCBS after short stints at KJRH Tulsa and WBAL Baltimore.
When someone rises through the ranks so quickly, it’s usually because, 1., they’re really talented; 2., they’re charismatic; and 3., they have some sort of mentor who believes in them and helps them move up. Harmon had one in Katherine Green, who recently resigned as Tribune’s VP of news. Green had a giant notebook full of producers whose work she liked, and Harmon got into her book pretty early.
Green hired Byron at WBAL, where she was news director at the time, in 1995. Inside of a few months, her protégé had landed a job in New York. Dreading telling her that he was leaving, Harmon told Green he’d prayed on it, and God had told him to take the WCBS New York job.
Even God’s endorsement did not seem to matter to Green, who was apoplectic. “God gave you some bad advice!” she shot back, which became the name of Harmon’s memoir.
Besides running the newsroom at WNYW New York, he writes books, and produces films, and pens plays, and trains for ultra marathons. I’m reading his memoir, about growing up in rural Louisiana, going to war, and working in TV news, and will report on it when I’m finished.
Lew Leone, VP/general manager of WNYW-WWOR, summed it up best. “Byron is a guy who gets things done,” said Leone.
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