Farewell to Scott Clark

January 4, 2011 5:30:41 AM PST
I know I'm biased and so I risk sounding like a homer. But I also like to think I'm (at least partially) intellectually honest. And so we take it to heart when the marketing peeps around here say that WABC is the most-watched television station in the country. CLICK HERE TO SEE SCOTT CLARK'S FAREWELL SPORTSCAST.

This is, by any objective measure, a fantabulous place to work. And although I could spend several paragraphs offering evidence, I think there's one exhibit that immediately proves the point: People arrive at this station, and often spend their careers here.

I feel like a relative newcomer, although I've been at ABC for 18 years and at this station for more than 12. Maybe it's because I replaced someone (Bill Beutel) who worked here for 35 years.

Our two newest weekday anchors - Liz Cho and Sade Baderinwa - are each now in their eighth year. Veterans, and well-known. In fact, most people here can easily say that they've been at this station longer than at any other job in their lives.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this station - with a storied history and a loyal audience - doesn't readily change on-air people. That's why when you turn us on, you see faces that are familiar, and people you feel you know.

It's rare - relatively, compared to other stations - when one of us leaves. And it's emotional, for you, and for us.

This is an emotional day.

It's Scott Clark's last night on the air for Eyewitness News.

Just writing that chokes me up. Scott has been here for 24 years; he's been the main sports anchor for all but 5. And he's been next to me - make that I've been next to him - for more than 11 years.

First let me say that, at 57, Scott's way too young to retire from daily news. Way too young. But he's been working in television sports for more than 30 years and he wants to take on new challenges. I get it. I hate it. But I get it.

Second, to state the obvious, Scott is one of the most remarkable broadcast communicators EVER. He is so wonderfully able to weave a tale and tell a story, so naturally inclined to look in the camera and make a connection to the viewers.

My wife, a veteran TV producer whose take on all things broadcasting I value more than anyone else's, sums up Scott the best. I don't follow sports, she says, and don't care about sports - except when Scott comes on. He makes sports interesting.

And I think lots of New Yorkers feel the same way about Scotty. Which is not to diminish the feelings of people who do love and know sports. Scott's gift is that he appeals to such a wide audience - sports-loving or not.

I have so many memories of Scott, his work on air and off. No one, for example, is a better charity auctioneer. No one has arm-twisted my arm into donating money with more flair and panache than Scott. And no one does more for the causes he works for than Scott Clark.

His work on behalf of the Alcoholism Council of New York stands out. Scott's compassionate but no-nonsense take on the disease, and his never-ending commitment to public awareness of alcoholism, is, to use my peoples' terminology, a mitzvah.

(Scott, by the way, knows well what mitzvah means, although truth-be-told he didn't before he moved here. There are, in his hometown of Lima, (the great-state-of) Ohio, about 180 Jewish residents, out of a population of more than 37,000. Minority in any sense; but especially compared to the tri-state.)

Scott's sense of honesty, and say-it-like-it-is, has been an integral part of our newscasts. If something's wrong, he'll say it's wrong. Just like you at home would say it.

I've learned so much from Scott, but one example shines brighter. When I first started anchoring the 11, taking Bill Beutel's seat, I guess was more tentative than I should have been. I didn't think I was like that - until Scott pulled me aside one night after my third or fourth newscast, and, gently and lovingly but in no-uncertain-terms, let me know that tentative wasn't going to cut it on the Eyewitness News anchor desk. Keep up with us, was his advice, although I didn't quite realize what he was saying until I played the conversation over in my head on the way home.

I thought at first that we were just chatting. We weren't. Scott was taking me to school. And he did it perfectly, because I wasn't aware of it, until it was over.

I trust he feels that it paid off.

I'm going to miss Scotty. Miss him on the set, and miss in the newsroom. Will miss our jokes and his laugh, and his remarkable writing and broadcasting skills.

At a small send off for Scott over the weekend, two of his friends presented Rob Powers with a pair of size 22 Nike basketball shoes. Perfect symbolism for the task Rob has been assigned: Eyewitness News' main sports anchor. Rob is a great selection. Since he joined us in 2009, he's fit right into our team, filling in for Scotty without missing a beat. Liz, Lee and I are thrilled to have Rob join us at 6 and 11.

As Rob will soon discover as he hangs those Size 22's in Scott's old office that will now be his - and as I discovered when I started sitting in Bill Beutel's seat ? you don't replace a legend, you succeed him.

So we'll formally say adios to Scott at 11 tonight - say goodbye with our words and hearts, and a look back at his great career here at Ch. 7.

Also at 11, a health scare on Long Island. Health officials in Nassau County say hundreds of people may have been exposed to Hepatitis A while taking "communion" on Christmas Day. Now they're asking anyone who took part in the Catholic ritual at Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park on Dec. 25 to get vaccines at the church this week.

And we have the story of a New York dentist who fitted a retiree on a fixed income with a "snap on smile." But it never fit properly. So the retiree called on Nina Pineda and got 7 On Your Side to get her money back.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott's final sportscast. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


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