Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Farewell to TV Guide Magazine

TVGM Covers 1
TVGM Covers 2

I just wrapped an incredible five-year run at TV Guide Magazine on Thursday, and it's pretty bittersweet. Next up, an exciting new challenge serving as Executive Editor at Indiewire, as well as an editor-at-large at Variety (my old stomping grounds). I'm moving to Penske Media, a company that is investing in media, and a really interesting place to be right now.

But of course, it's really tough to say farewell to my family at TV Guide. Here's part of a note I wrote yesterday:

Hi all,

I grew up as an Air Force brat, moving around every few years… so you’d think I’d have these transitions down by now. But I don’t. And this one is extra tough.

I’m sure I’ve bored all of you to tears by now with my TV Guide story. But I’ll tell it one more time.

I was a weird kid. While others collected comic books, or action figures, or baseball cards, there’s just one thing I collected: TV Guide. I loved the covers. I loved the articles. I loved the listings. I loved the network ads. I learned about the TV business by reading about Brandon Tartikoff, Fred Silverman and Ted Turner in the pages of TV Guide. I even came up with my own imaginary media company — when I was 7, I drew up the listings for a cable network that aired nothing but cartoons. (My lawsuit against Turner is still pending.)

Soon, I was fascinated by TV scheduling. And networks and affiliates. As we drove around the country on vacation, or to a new Air Force base, I would force my parents to stop at every 7-11 in every podunk town in order to get that area’s local edition of TV Guide. To them, it was the same magazine. To me, each town had its own unique mix of TV stations and schedules. I wanted to learn every affiliate in every market.

Did I mention I was a weird kid?

I never threw any of those old TV Guides away. Much to the chagrin of my parents. There are still boxes of 1980s TV Guides up in their attic. As I got older, I began to even make my own versions of TV Guide (with my trusty typewriter — yes, the 1980s were ancient). That included listings for my ideal, imaginary TV station, which I conveniently decided would be a split affiliate with every network and cherry pick the best programming!

Fast forward to college. I recently found an old day planner from 1995 (apparently I really don’t throw anything away). I had completely forgotten that I applied for a job at TV Guide back then — I have Eileen O’Malley Spangler’s name written there! I wound up working for the now-defunct TV trade Electronic Media out of Chicago, followed by my long run at Variety. And funny enough, as many of you know, I wrote a few times about TV Guide there — including the time TV Guide cut The CW out of its listings. (Ironically, my Variety story about TV Guide is cited in its Wikipedia page).

Then, I finally got my first taste of being inside the pages of TV Guide in 2009 and 2010, when I helped Steve Battaglio as a freelancer to put together the Salary Survey list.

When Debra Birnbaum called me at the end of 2010 with a chance to finally make those childhood dreams come true, it wasn’t a hard decision. I’ll always have her to thank for bringing me over and allowing me, a trade guy, the chance to finally go consumer.

Talk about the right time at the right place. The magazine was looking great, and had returned to its original promise of offering readers a guide to What’s Worth Watching — plus an insider’s look at the how and why of what we watch.

I was IN! And talk about timing: Within days, Charlie Sheen imploded. And I had a chance to jump in and immediately do some deep writing and reporting for TV Guide Magazine. After Sheen and his “tiger blood” were fired, we ripped up the magazine on a Friday and stuck him on the cover. For a guy coming off 12 years of the news-fueled trades, this was heaven. I was doing what I love, for a magazine I love.

Charlie’s meltdown was very good to me that first year at TV Guide. It led to our Two and a Half Men exclusive cover, and later the end-of-the-year Chuck Lorre exclusive.

From there, it was truly an amazing run. I’ll never forget being there as Jimmy Kimmel dressed up as Don Draper, Walter White, the Khaleesi and the Dowager Countess for our 2012 Emmy covers. Going from a tugboat in 2011 to our yacht being one of the coolest spots at Comic-Con. And speaking of Comic-Con, working with Rich to bring The X-Files reunion to the stage in 2013 remains a career highlight. Oh, and remember the time I found myself in a staring contest with Jon Hamm at the PaleyFest? And like I mentioned on the call, these were an incredible 5 years to be covering TV at TV Guide Magazine, given the whole streaming revolution. I could go on.

But the best part has been working with all of you. This is an amazing team. A legendary team.

Now I go back to being a reader—and a fan — of TV Guide Magazine. I can’t wait to see each future issue, and not only be a reader and a fan but also know the people who are behind the magazine! I will be rooting for all of you from the sidelines, and wish every one of you the best. Consider me Team TV Guide Magazine forever.

I'll be sharing more about my new job in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I've now been blogging so long that you can read about my departure from Variety to TV Guide here.

Above, most of the cover stories I did for TV Guide Magazine over the years. The final one was just a few weeks ago, for "The Goldbergs."



Ellen Bloom said...

Congratulations on your newest adventure!!!

Bill said...

Ditto Michael, congrats on your new gig!!!

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