Bill Carey's Farewell Letter to Staff
From: Bill Carey
To: WFTS-TV Staff, Scripps TV Group, Ken Lowe, Rich Boehne, Bill Peterson
Date: Friday, March 14, 2008
Please forgive this formal email but it is the quickest way to reach most of you and try to offer a personalized note regarding news about me.
Two headlines: after waiting six months, I am cleared of any/all charges. I’m grateful to the prosecutor’s office for their careful review and conclusion. I have always believed it was the right one, and it is very satisfying to have their undeniable confirmation. The case is closed, and thankfully, that chapter of my life ends.
The second headline comes with heavier heart, and that is that I’m also announcing my resignation from my position as vice president and general manager of WFTS-TV in Tampa, effective March 31st, but my duties and responsibilities end today.
The two are of course related, but related because of how long this took to come to a conclusion, not because a resignation announcement was ever considered to be concurrent with news from the prosecutor. I state that because I am well aware of appearances and perception, and appearances and perception do matter, and I want to take the time to explain.
In case you don't know the background on this, six months ago, Donna and I were involved in a bumper-to-bumper auto accident. I'm purposefully skimming over the details here because charges stemming from the accident will not be filed and no summonses will be issued. And because finally, it is the proper time for me to speak. After first wanting to issue summonses, Tampa police chose to pursue more charges against me. I was placed on paid administrative leave. That the Company and so many of you offered unqualified supported is appreciated and always will be appreciated by me and my family. It is a great source of comfort for me, for after sampling some reports and blogs, I don’t know if I would support me! Your support can only come from the heart, not the brain, in times like that, and I will be forever grateful that I was once a colleague of so many good hearts.
Much time has passed. Too much. And to answer a question I anticipate many of you have, there is no specific timetable, and you have no specific control, when you are faced with this. As a process, it tends to linger and take its time… and its toll. To the extent it has been unsettling in the station I am painfully aware of the distractions it caused and assure you I did what can be done to move it along. Yesterday came the prosecutor's decision to not file any charges in the case, not even the original summons. And while I'm grateful, it is a bittersweet ending.
A few weeks ago Bill Peterson and I began discussions regarding the unfortunate fact that the length of my absence had passed the tipping point, and that it would be best for the station for me to step down. Too much time had gone by, and the waiting was wearing everyone down, interfering with business. I'm trusting of Bill Peterson’s judgment, and have accepted this perspective much the way a starting player never likes to ride the bench: reluctantly. I want back in, still do, but as a leader, I also want what is best for the team. Make no mistake, you have made me feel that if this were open to popular vote, I’d be welcomed back by the team. But I want to appeal to your sense of what it takes to run a business, how difficult it is to have not just the station absorb this event, but how to square that with the larger picture of running a company. Truthfully, for all the right reasons, if any of us had known it would have been six months, I would not have been on leave this long, I would have left or been asked to leave. Ultimately, we passed a point where returning was not in the best interests of the company. Scripps has been extremely fair and supportive throughout this ordeal, so I am agreeable to this decision, so much so that I chose to announce my own resignation as a signal to you that you should also accept this decision.
I guess you have figured out that I'm proud of the team, and each of you. Our mantra is to "be the best station in town" and I do believe we are in many tangible ways already, and I hope you keep that mantra alive and in sight. For those of you not in Tampa, allow me a paragraph to brag about our dedicated men and women: "ABC Action News" is now a regular competitor for top ratings in late news, we added the top hit programs "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" to our line-up, and we hit a trifecta in HD conversion by being the first station in Tampa to present news with HD studio cameras, HD field cameras, and HD weather graphics. That was a high point for all our morale and competitive fire. During the last four years, our sales team consistently outperforms its goals, and our managers and supervisors are expense management savants. We have the most creative, most viewer and client-friendly staff in town, and I know that because I get the compliments everywhere I go. Additionally, we have won national and local awards for our journalism, a source of great personal satisfaction, and not least importantly, we are more firmly and strategically entrenched in the goings-on in the Tampa Bay community, perhaps most notably as the proud broadcaster of the annual MLK Day parade.
The department heads and management team, in fact each of you, are doing a terrific job at running the business as you awaited my return. I want to most particularly thank Sarah Tyrrell who ably absorbed the bulk of my duties while skillfully doing her own, and Chris Jadick, who had been empowered as the final editorial decision maker in my absence. Judging by the content I’ve viewed, Chris and his team made many good decisions with the rest of you in the newsroom. Naming Sarah and Chris in no way slights the department head team and the management team that runs the station each day. Each of you are noted here, and I thank you for working together as you always have. I’ve been complimented on how well the station ran without me, and I want to express my pride in you as a team, and make sure you know that I’m not at all surprised.
I therefore have deep regret that it took so long to have this matter resolved. For a person accustomed to calling shots and being in control, the word "patience" has been redefined to a degree I would not have thought possible! Believe me, I wish this experience on no one. I sincerely regret the impact it had on our family, friends old and new, Scripps, and you. It has been frustrating, but I have understood from the beginning that this is hardly the worst travail life will throw my way, and I have kept my perspective. I watched more cable and local news than I ever have in my life, I have too many scribbled notes on what is wrong with television newscasts, and I can hear the newsroom breath a sigh of relief that they will now be spared all those scribbles. On a brighter, more serious note, I did get to spend some unexpected time with my dad and family, and I am grateful for that, and for the countless people they (and many of you) had praying on my behalf.
Among the other good things that happened in the past six months were the incredible expressions of support that came my way, from inside the television station and out. It was overwhelming at times, and I am humbled by it. I have no way to pay you back, except to assure you all that I will pay it forward. Some of you went out of your way to reach out, and to keep the proper distance, I did not do a good enough job of reaching back. But the cloud is lifted and we can openly talk again, and I am thankful for that. Tampa has been home for four years, and so many of you have made it so very comfortable. As for lessons learned, I, for one, will certainly be quicker at reaching out to others who run into problems in the future, and a little slower to judge until I see how things turn out. It's only when you are down that you can better see how many hands are always there to pull you up. Now today, with the news that everything is dropped, I feel a sense of gratitude that your blind support was well invested.
Scripps is a great company, and I've been told I'm welcome to look inside for my next career opportunity, just another signal of how committed Scripps is to making my resignation as smooth as possible. I appreciate that greatly.
In the short term, I will be in the station over the next week or so to get my office in order. I look forward to seeing you, but without being a distraction.
I will serve out my term in June as Chairman of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, but I will immediately begin a job search for something as dynamic and satisfying as I've had these past seven years in Detroit and Tampa.
I'm eager to catch up with you on a more personal level, so please feel free to reach out by email or phone whenever you can.