Why Tom Doerr Suspended Me?

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FTVLive has reported that KRIV News Director Tom Doerr (pictured) was headed to be the News Director at WFLD in Chicago. We pointed out that we thought Doerr was a good hire for the struggling Chicago Station.

We have first hand experience with Tom Doerr. Back way too many years to admit to, Doerr was my News Director.

He is also the first ND to ever suspend me.

Here is the story of my first (but not last) suspension in TV news.

I was working as a News Photographer at KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Doerr was the News Director.

Anchor/Reporter Rea Blakey and I were covering a story of flooding in Skiatook, Oklahoma. Not sure home many of you have been to Skiatook, but if there is no flood, there is no reason to go there.

Anyway, we were setting up for a live shot to be the top story at 5:00. I set up the truck and radioed in to Engineering and got a good signal. The shot was ready to go.

As we got ready to step out of the truck, the flood water had risen up to where we had the live truck parked. Rea said she could not get out on her side. I told her, I would move the truck up about 10 feet and we'd be fine.

Now, what happen next was stupid, but it was something every Photog back in those days had done from time to time. I was only moving the truck a few feet, so there was no way I was going to drop the mast for that. I started pulling the truck up with the mast fully extended.

I never did look up and there was a power-line right above the truck. I don't need to tell you what happened next. Sparks flying and I was getting zapped through the steering wheel of the truck. The mast fried to a crisp fell behind the truck in a charred metal heap.

I was shaken but doing ok for a guy that took a few thousand volts through his body.

"Ah...Unit 1 ...for some reason we lost your signal," comes over the radio from Engineering. No shit! The mast is laying behind the truck in a puddle of water. looking like a burnt french fry from McDonald's.

I called the Producer and told him we would not be going live for the top of the show. The Producer could care less that I just took enough volts to make Ted Bundy proud, he wanted to know "What the Fuck and I going to lead with now?!"

Producers....huh?

The funny part was the NBC station in town leads their newscast with the flooding and the Reporter starts off his report by saying "Not only is the flooding bad here in Skiatook, but we have just noticed that parts of the town are now without power..."

It is the only time my actions have ever lead a newscast. In a weird way, I was kind of proud.

I ended up tying the charred mast to the top of the live truck with audio cable and drove back to the station.

We got there and Doerr and the Chief Engineer met us in the parking lot. Now, Doerr was never a big fan of me, but he loved Rea. The Chief Engineer looked at the charred mast and said we were so lucky to be alive. Rea started to cry and hug me and said she loved me. I knew that this could only help my cause with Doerr. As I said he thought the world of Rea...as for me? Not so much.

Doerr instructed Rea to take me to the hospital and he gave her his credit card and told us to get dinner after that. I figured it was kind of like a last meal before you're headed to the Electric Chair. I had a nice steak.

The next day, I'm in the shower at home and the phone rings. It's the Chief Photog telling me that "Tom wants to see you in his office..." Then he says "I'm not sure what it's about...."

Well Duh...I just fried the live truck the day before....I'm pretty sure I know what it's about.

I was positive I was getting canned.

I went into Tom's office and he tells me that he was "suspending for a week without pay."

I was never so happy to be suspended in my life. I was sure I was going to get fired.

We were in the middle of the May book, so I made Doerr and offer. I said I didn't want to leave the station short during ratings. I offered to work the next week while not being paid. I said then I could take a week off after the book.

Tom appreciated my offer and took me up on it. I worked the next week, without getting a paycheck. Come to think of it, I never did take the week off after the book. I just worked one week with no pay. And I had no complaints...I was just happy to still have a job.

Tom Doerr could have fired me, and maybe he should have. But he realized I made a mistake and he was more than fair with me. As I said, I was not a fan of his, so he easily could have fired me. He didn't and I appreciated it.

So, to those working at WFLD in Chicago...wondering what will the new guy be like? I can tell you first hand, he's a driven guy that wants the best....be he is also very fair.

And really, isn't that all you want in a boss?

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