Top of Mind: Jack Williams, Extended Version
JB: Do you have any writing projects you’re working on?
JW: A couple of things. I’ve started to do some research on what’s happened to all of these Wednesday’s Children. This will be our 28th year in October, so there are children who are now adults, who are in the next generation. Some of them have very happy stories; some of them have very sad ones. I suppose when they finally give me the boot here, that’s one thing I will do….
The other love of my life has been the 2nd Rangers Dog Company. I first went to Normandy in 1984, the 40th university of D-Day landings, and I got to know a number of company members from New England. I have over 1,000 pages of transcribed interviews. …These guys fought from there right up until the end of the war. And we forget sometimes when we’re worried about our 401k’s and everything that that was the problem. When you’ve got Germans shooting at you, that’s a problem. This is an inconvenience….
JB: Is it at all a mixed blessing to be as busy as you are?
JW: Busy is good. I’ve seen some of my friends who made a lot of money and weren’t that interested in their profession, and retired—and I think most of them made a mistake. You can only play so much golf.
JB: You talked about needing to be adaptable, about that being key to survival in the profession. Is there enough opportunity to do the kind of more substantial stuff you seem to find most gratifying?
JW: Well, fortunately here…we don’t just want to redo the morning Globe or the Herald. I think there are a lot of opportunities coming up. But again, I can’t tell you in what form. I think the stations are going to survive. My opinion on what the future’s gonna be? I think there will be about one or two strong stations in local markets. And that could be all. Including Boston. I don’t think the money’s going to come back even when this recession ends. It’s profitable for anybody who’s number 1 and maybe a strong number 2. It’s not profitable anymore for a third or fourth place. The most endangered species in America today—other than derivative traders—would be the highest-paid anchor in the third- or fourth-rated station. Yikes! Hopefully they’ll save their money.
JB: What did you gain during the time where you lost the marquee newscast?
JW: It was very hurtful. Especially when they replaced me with people you don’t think… Listen, I don’t like ego. I’m not overly enamored of myself, but I know that I’ve managed to survive all these years by being able to do some things well. Don’t ask me to build a house. I know how to write, I know how to talk, and I try to present. That’s all I do. And raise kids—I’m better at that than I thought…
But it was hurtful. You know, this goes back to liberal arts: Creative people will find a way to fill their time. Thank you, David Brudnoy, God bless your memory, he saw I had some time to spare, he wasn’t feeling well, and I substituted for him for 100 shows. …And I wrote op-ed pieces for the Herald, of all places, for a couple of years. I was their only liberal columnist…I realized there wasn’t a future there.
But the thing is, if I hadn’t done those things, I wouldn’t have been able to do what we did with Wednesday’s Child, the endowment, which was to get this money for these kids. …This is another bully pulpit, but one thing that really irritates me is so many of these charities with fancy offices and company cars take a lot of the percentage of the money raised in order to perpetuate their lifestyles. I don’t believe in that, I’m sorry. I think you need to sacrifice to raise money to help people who are really, really desperate. So we prided ourselves in trying to put together an organization that deals with volunteers. The guy that does our investments is my own private guy—he charges me plenty, but he does Wednesday’s Child gratis. Just like our attorney—does it totally free. You surround yourself in people that are interested in just trying to make a difference.
…Sometimes you look back at times in your life that were really not very pleasant, and realize they were great opportunities. I couldn’t have done all this with the pressures I’m now under. I wouldn’t have been able to do radio. That’s a good ace in the hole.
All I need is more years, you know. I hope I don’t kick the bucket or something.