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In Buzz

Milwaukee Talks: Jerry Taff

How time flies.

Two milestones -- 25 years at one station and retirement from an illustrious broadcasting career spanning more than 40 years -- are coming together for Jerry Taff. A law and history buff with a penchant for journalism, reading, mentoring, community outreach, Elvis and Corvettes, Taff has collected numerous broadcasting awards. Among them is the Southwest Journalism Forum special medallion, which is unique in that it can only be won once in a lifetime.

He also taught TV Journalism at Carroll College for a number of years and mentors college students to this day.

A native Texan, Taff cut his teeth in broadcasting in Amarillo. He then worked his way up through New Haven, Flint and Dallas before taking the anchor position at Milwaukee's WISN-TV in 1979. He's been here ever since, and his longevity speaks for itself: his pairing with co-anchor Kathy Mykleby lasted so long that it became the subject of an OMC April Fools' story ("Live, Local and Common Law for Taff, Mykleby").

On May 25, Taff bids farewell and wish us better tomorrows for the final time on WISN-TV, putting the cap on a fascinating journey in the world of television news. As he prepares for the relative relaxation of retirement, he sat down with OMC.

OMC: So you grew up in Texas. How was that?

JT: I really didn't like it that much. I grew up in Lamesa, Texas, which literally means "the table." It's a small town -- 9,300 inhabitants -- and it was miles and miles from anywhere else. I did like some elements of it, though. The cowboy culture is very interesting. The chivalrous way you treat ladies, the way you take off your hat when a funeral procession goes by ... they're quaint and touching. They're a part of me and I wouldn't change that if I could.

OMC: So what's a typical day been like for you over the last several years? You don't keep a 9-to-5 schedule, obviously...

JT: As long as I've been TV (since 1964), I haven't kept a 9-to-5 schedule. When I first started, I had a police radio bolted to my bed ... you're never really off the clock.

Then, for the bulk of my career, my schedule would begin in the late morning. Often, you meet somebody for lunch, like a local official, a colleague, or someone else involved in the community. You keep on top of issues with them and cultivate those relationships. To do the 6 and 10 reports, you need to be in here (the newsroom) around 2:30. You usually get out around 11:15. Lately, though, I've just been doing the 6, so I'm done earlier than that.

OMC: So you've been ramping down a bit, huh?

JT: A little. You could say I'm easing into retirement.

OMC: What was your most memorable moment over your broadcasting career?

JT: Wow. I loved the radio growing up, and I grew up in awe of WFAA radio, which was based in Dallas. The rush of my life was my first newscast there. When I moved to television and landed a job at WFAA-TV, I worked in the Fort Worth bureau. The company issued me this somewhat run-down car, but it still was a station-issued vehicle and I got to drive it. I remember vividly going home to my apartment complex; I sat there for hours looking out in the parking lot and thinking, "man, I have a key to that car!" I felt like I was at the top of the mountain.

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