It only comes once a year but when it’s here you gotta celebrate. Our executive producer Jerry Burke has a birthday today. Thought I’d spend a minute sharing a bit about the guy who has served as a mentor, friend and leader for the past few years as I made a dramatic transition out of a stable, successful corporate career into the chaos of media.
Jerry is a friend, a mentor and what we refer to in the TV business as my ‘Rabbi’. Arguably one of the smartest, most creative and most clever talents I’ve ever had as a boss. Jerry is the Executive Producer for our nightly news show, Chasing News. He’s been in the TV business for a long time serving as as producer on Inside Edition, A Current Affair and as the daytime head for Fox New Channel. He’s worked directly with TV legends like Roger Ailes and has a wealth of experience and talent that he’s eager to share with up and coming talent in the business. It was Jerry who took the risk hiring a politician/real estate executive to host a new show on Fox TV that would be disruptive enough to change the way news is delivered into viewers homes.
You don’t often remember the first words a person says to you when you meet for the first time. I saw Jerry across the room making a bee-line for me as I entered the ramshackle, sort of studio at the Dow Jones building in Princeton. I planned to head into my day job late that day so I could stop by and interview with a reporter for a new show that probably would never air.
“Has anyone every told you that you have an unusually large head?” Jerry said it as if he were giving a clinical analysis of a scientific test subject
“No. Nice to meet you, I’m Bill Spadea.” I responded.
It was August 15, 2012 when I heard the voicemail from Kate. She explained that she was a reporter with a new show being developed for Fox and she needed to speak to someone knowledgeable about Jersey politics. The Mayor of Trenton had just been indicted and they needed someone on camera to discuss the political impact. It was hard to understand the number and since I was already doing media hits for Fox 5 and WWOR My9 as a Republican Strategist, I almost didn’t call her back. After a couple more attempts to discern the number I gave her a call. She explained that the show was a pilot that wouldn’t air but I was recommended by my good friend Adam Geller. Adam knew Jerry Burke from his days as EP for Eric Bolling’s show and was the first Jersey politico that came to mind for the pilot. My name got into the mix because Adam was unable to discuss certain things on TV that could cause a potential conflict in his role with Governor Christie. He told Kate to call me.
Actually I was going to cancel that morning and would have if not for my wife Jodi telling me “You have to go, Adam is your good friend.” So I went. Met Jerry and here we are taping our 773rd episode of Chasing News. In a couple weeks we’ll have been on the air in New York and Philly for three years.
The show is a success and I’ve managed to expand my new career into radio, hosting the morning drive on NJ’s top rated station, New Jersey 101.5 FM. My dad used to tell me that in life it’s better to be lucky than good. Plenty of highly skilled people with poor timing, wrong place, wrong time who fall flat. I can add to that and say with a little skill, a little luck and the right mentor, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.
Working with Jerry every day is exciting, interesting and sometimes exhausting, in a good way, like after a long run. He’s in constant ‘growth mode’, always pushing for the best line, the best segment and the best show. No matter how insignificant a story may seem, Jerry leads the Chasing team to excel and deliver a product to our audience that hopefully has them happy that they took the time to watch.
Jerry’s leadership had me fully immersed into the show from the beginning. Hosting a new show, researching the details of every story, facilitating a conversation in the room and for the first year, spending late nights in the edit room working with our editors to help build a show segment. Then he showed me the door and pushed me to grow my own brand branching out into the media world. Within a few months I was a fill in host on the radio and in September of last year hosting morning drive.
Thanks Jerry. Appreciate the guidance, the leadership the input and of course the friendship. Enjoy a happy birthday. Looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays to come. As for today, lá breithe shona!