Marci Burdick’s fights for local broadcasters’ rights has frequently found her in the towers of power in Washington and New York—as far a cry as one can imagine from a youth spent in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Growing up in Rapid City, somewhere between Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Schurz Communications senior VP describes an idyllic childhood spent amidst mountains, forests and a veritable menagerie of wildlife. “We used to say you could put more people in Yankee Stadium than you could put in the city,” Burdick says. “I think it’s still true.”
While her surroundings have changed, other things have remained constant, such as Burdick’s passion for local broadcasting. She got her start at the school radio station at 14, shifted to television at 18 and was an anchor and news director at KEVN in Rapid City by 21. While some might picture the occasional distemperate bison as “news” in DMA No. 173, Burdick says the stories were extraordinarily impactful, from devastating forest fires and fatal " oods to ground-breaking Native American movements to cracks in Mount Rushmore. “We’d walk right up the side of Mount Rushmore with a camera strapped to our back,” she says. “We were one-man bands before it was cool.”
Burdick became news director at KYTV Spring! eld (Mo.) in 1988, starting a decadeslong tenure at Schurz. Her first general manager job was at WAGT in Augusta, Ga., in 2000, and she was boosted to corporate in 2003, overseeing eight TV and 13 radio stations and two cable systems.
The move to corporate has launched Burdick into some pivotal broadcasting leadership positions. She has been chairperson of the RTNDA (now RTDNA) board and of NBC’s in" uential affiliates board in 2006-2007. (“Outstanding job,” recalls Jean Dietze, NBC’s current affiliates chief.)
Burdick joined the NBC affiliates board when Jack Sander, former vice chair at Belo, headed the group. “I got to know Marci a bit when we worked on some gnarly issues, and found her to be a good, solid thinker who was very effective in Washington and New York,” says Sander. “I learned as much from Marci as she did from me.”
Burdick added another major post last June, when she was elected chair of the NAB’s television board—the first woman to hold that position since the NAB formed in 1923. “Marci is just a great person to be around, with a positive attitude and a results-driven, can-do spirit,” says NAB president/CEO Gordon Smith. “You would have a hard time finding anyone in broadcasting better liked and more respected.”
Schurz CEO Todd Schurz says Burdick’s presence on boards benefits the company greatly. “It helps us know what opportunities are out there, and gives us an earlier warning signal when problems are out there,” he says. “She’s part of a discussion that traditionally we’ve not been part of.”
Burdick oversees a sterling batch of stations that include WSBT South Bend (Ind.), WDBJ Roanoke (Va.) and KWCH Wichita (Kan.). She describes the stations as leaders in news and community service, technology pioneers and strong business partners. “Ask the Chamber of Commerce, the biggest auto dealer, the teacher,” she says. “Give them our call letters and see what they feed back. I’m willing to bet more times than not it’s the best news, and when the community needs help, that is where they go.”
Burdick’s colleagues describe her as razor-sharp, down-to-earth and wickedly funny. Todd Schurz says Burdick is a stellar sounding board for newsroom denizens wrestling with a tricky story. “Her colleagues trust her and come to her with lots of questions, because they respect her judgment,” Schurz says.
Burdick unwinds by knitting, reading and spending time with her granddaughters— as well as mentoring a third-grader from a disadvantaged school. As much as she enjoys her corporate role, Burdick misses the buzz of those newsrooms she got to know as a kid. “I still twitch and pace on election night and when there’s breaking news,” she says. “I still love and admire what happens in newsrooms.”
E-mail comments to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone
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