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Tracy Briggs, Published April 24 2013

Tracy Briggs: Bossart guided us with humor and grace

Normally, my Thursday column is dedicated to our food/lifestyle blog “The Great Indoors.” But today I felt like doing something a little different. The fact is, it’s been a tough couple of days for some of us at Forum Communications. We lost a dear friend and former colleague. Veteran WDAY-TV anchorman Marv Bossart died Tuesday after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

I first met Marv when I was a 21-year-old college intern and was blessed to have spent the first part of my career working with him. What I learned about writing came largely from him. But he didn’t just teach me and hundreds of others about broadcast journalism. He taught us how to live.

Marv Bossart’s Top Ten Life Lessons

  1. Have fun (even at your own expense). Marv was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He took the news very seriously and taught us all what an awesome responsibility it was. But when the time was right, Marv could lighten the mood like no other. He’d break into classic old tunes and change the words, “Summertime ... and the liver is greasy.” He’d stomp on two empty pop cans and walk around the newsroom with them stuck to his feet pretending they were spurs. His philosophy was “If work isn’t fun, why do it?” And Marv’s funniest stories were usually at his own expense. He’d break into Jack Benny when he was telling us how cheap he was. And he loved to tell us how he got his hand stuck in a snowblower or cotton candy machine. He found humor even when he was the butt of the joke.

  2. Work hard. Maybe Marv had fun to balance out just how hard he worked. In the early days of television he anchored the news six days a week. He worked long hours, late nights and holidays, even in the last few years of his life when he certainly earned the right to take time off. A classic example of overpaying one’s dues and something some spoiled recent college graduates could learn.

  3. Always do your best. In today’s ratings-driven world of cable news, the rush is always on to be first. But for Marv it was more important to do it best. I’d watch as he’d pour over his copy, making sure it was perfect for his viewers. He checked and double-checked facts. He taught us all that we had to be objective and accurate and he lead by example.

  4. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing by you. I remember early in my career I was assigned to produce Marv’s 10 p.m. newscast. His job was to edit the videotape for me. I felt so guilty telling this broadcast legend what to do, but he didn’t bat an eye. He was ready to pitch in where needed. No job was beneath him. (Of course, I felt even guiltier when the accident-prone Marv somehow managed to cut his hand on the edit deck. He continued to edit one-handed until the job was done.)

  5. Respect women. Maybe it’s the result of living with a wife and four daughters, but Marv was the ultimate champion of women. I sat beside him every day, watching news feeds about murders and assaults while Marv commented on how badly some men treated women. Truth be told, Marv had a crush on Princess Diana (sorry Betty). And to his dying day, my guess is he still didn’t forgive Prince Charles.

  6. Be nicer than you have to be. Marv loved people and the feeling was mutual. Everywhere he went fans swarmed around Marv. They wanted autographs and pictures. He was a celebrity and he embraced it. I once heard someone say, “Marv loves being Marv.” But it couldn’t have always come easily. Everyone has crabby days, but I never saw Marv be anything but delightful with the people he’d meet.

  7. Be real. When I told a friend of mine that Marv had died she said, “Oh, I had dinner with Marv every night.” Of course she meant that her family watched him on the air. But to people all over the valley it was like Marv was at their dinner table. He didn’t announce the news, he told us stories. He talked to us, not at us. And the hundreds of young journalists he taught learned that skill and the conversation continues.

  8. Embrace change. Marv started working at WDAY in 1958. Back then we didn’t have computers or satellite trucks and a tweet was the sound a bird made. He was there for 40 years of major changes in the industry. I watched him learn how to use a computer mouse and go online. It wasn’t always pretty. But Marv knew change was inevitable and he never stopped learning.

  9. Love your family and friends. Pretty obvious. But Marv did it to the nth degree. He lovingly spoke of his wife Betty (even while teasing that he made her shovel the walk). He spoke often of his daughters, grandchildren and group of close friends. He wore his heart on his sleeve and I have no doubt they all knew how much he loved them.

  10. “Everything will be alright.” I’ll never forget Marv saying those words to a few of us reporters one night. We were upset over something – the crisis du jour. Marv was quietly ripping wire copy almost oblivious to the drama. When we asked for his opinion he barely looked up from what he was doing and said. “Everything will be alright.” He was right of course. Most of what we worry about never happens.

    So Marv “Everything will be alright” again, but this is going to hurt for a while.

    Tracy Briggs is an employee of Forum Communications Co. She can be reached at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.