You never know when a chance encounter will set the stage for changes throughout your entire life. For Burton Jablin, Chief Operating Officer at Scripps Networks Interactive, it happened when he was a student at Harvard in 1982. Burton, a reporter for the Harvard Crimson newspaper, was asked by the Dean of Faculty what he wanted to do after graduation. When he responded that he wanted to work in TV news, the dean replied, “You should speak to Frank Stanton,” the legendary former President of CBS who at that time was a consultant for the network.
“He might as well have told me that if I wanted to go into politics I should speak to the president,” Burton laughed during a recent lunch at Michael’s restaurant with Jack Myers and me. As it happened, Stanton was on the university’s Board of Overseers and came to the Kennedy School of Government a couple of months later for a conference. Burton (pictured top right with Myers) happened to see him come through a door and took his shot. To his surprise, Stanton “set down his briefcase, pulled out his appointment book and said, “Meet me tomorrow morning for breakfast at the Faculty Club at 7 a.m.’” Burton didn’t know it at the time, but he had just taken his first step on the career path that led him to where he is today.
Months later, after hearing back from Stanton, Burton found himself traveling to New York City for an interview with Eric Ober, who was then Vice President of News for CBS’ owned and operated stations. (Many years later Ober would eventually work for Scripps.) Ober advised him to write to executives at every small TV station around the country. One of them was Frank Gardner, the news director at WBBM in Chicago, Burton’s home town.
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