WHO-TVs most successful news team of the 1970s was formed when Jack Cafferty, Phil Thomas, Jerry Reno and Jim Zabel became the Eyewitness News team in 1976. Four guys never had more fun working together and the levitywhich included presentation of garden vegetables with anatomical shapesbegan to take shape and was even promoted in a Des Moines Register Ad about warmth.
One of the most outrageous and wildly popular features appeared on the day before a holiday. Jack would announce that "It's time to Take Roll at the Courthouse." He would send a camera crew to the Polk county courthouse. We'd air explanations of why "most of our high paid bureaucrats" weren't on the job. County employee Marilyn Spina was particularly adept at this, almost reaching star status for her bosses. The viewers loved the feature but it sent real panic through the courthouse.
After Jack left, WHO-TV hired Greg Burden, a young anchor from KMOX-TV in St. Louis to join the news team. Greg was a former college basketball player from Los Angeles and something like 6 6 tall. His personality fit in very well with the others, although Thomas, who is short, complained that Burden made him look like a circus midget. Greg Burden has since had a long career as a Los Angeles attorney.
By 1977 Jack Cafferty had become one of the most sought after local TV anchors in the nation and was represented by the famed show business giant, the William Morris Agency. Knowing he was about to depart, WHO-TV began running this transition ad, The Professionals with Phil Thomas in the foreground.
Before 1977 was over Jack Cafferty had signed with WNBC-TV, New York City and begun his rise in network news.
One of the funniest internal moments during this time was when reporter Anne Lilly brought in and posted on the newsroom bulletin board, a Kmart ad section with an underwear model that looked just like Jack Cafferty. As far as we know, Jack is still trying to collect a royalty.
(1978) Later in the decade the humor on Eyewitness News, the constant ribbing of each other, got to be too much for management, particularly when audience research showed viewers comparing Phil Thomas with comedian Steve Martin and bloopers from the news were on the inaurgural show of NBC's Real People.
By 1979 big changes were afoot in TV news and Phil Thomas became the news director at the station, as reported in the Guthrie Center Times, where he began his news career.
Courtesy of Phil Thomas
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