As a television journalist for more than four decades and anchor of the Today in South Florida morning news program on NBC6 for the past 20 years, Bob Mayer recently hung up his anchor chair.
A familiar and popular face to South Floridians, Kendall resident Mayer retired from his news anchoring duties with no regrets and says he is relishing the change of lifestyle.
“Getting up late and going to bed early, that’s probably the single best part about being retired,” Mayer said. “I’m not living a life on the opposite end of the clock from everybody else anymore. For 20 years, I got up at 1:45 a.m., had a quick breakfast, caught up on the news by watching CNN, got dressed, put on my makeup, got in the car and drove to Broward County (where NBC6 is now located). I was there by 4 every morning and was on the air by 5. Now I’m on a normal schedule, live a normal life and I love it!”
Mayer, who graduated from the University of Florida and immediately went to work for the legendary broadcaster Ralph Renick and Miami’s WTVJ News in 1969, said he has no regrets about departing television news and notes that the business changed markedly during his tenure.
“The key to my longevity was my ability to change with the times,” he said. “The tide has been changing for a long time in television news and I think I fully understood that the business had become a totally different business than the one I originally got into.
“The emphasis now is clearly on the entertainment side, as opposed to the journalism side. A lot more time now goes to entertainment news, even on the television news programs —lifestyle, social networking,” he said. “Today, if you’re not on Twitter and Facebook and the others, or if you don’t have links on your newscast and you’re not doing blogs, then you’re not with it; you’re not where TV news is today.
“I was able to move with the tide and enjoyed moving with the tide because of the people I worked with. But, it is a totally different business today.”
Mayer added that in today’s market nobody should rely on a single television newscast or even a single newspaper as the sole source for his or her daily dose of news.
“Journalism as we knew it is gasping its final breath,” he said. “There are still some shining bright lights that are the exception. But TV news departments can no longer afford to do the kind of journalism that we used to do when news departments were not required to even turn a profit.
“Television news was a public service back then. Today, a news department not only has to turn a profit; it better be making the best profit in the market or heads are going to roll.”
Mayer, who left Miami in the mid 1980s and spent a brief part of his career as a news anchor in Hartford, CT before returning to WTVJ (now NBC6), believes the economy and changing tastes in programming are the reasons for the decline of television news.
“It’s a combination of the bad economy and changing viewer habits that resulted in rapidly sliding viewerships for every station and network,” he said. “Fewer people watch television every year, especially news. There are just so many choices — so many channels, so many networks, so much on the Internet — that people don’t make appointments anymore to sit down at six o’clock as a family to watch the evening news.”
Mayer points out that there is a different criterion for news programming today.
“The people who run television news departments today have to deal with a whole new set of rules,” he said. “Journalism as we knew it could not exist today because of the economy and what’s happened in the media, and where preferences have gone.
“I’m not sure they even know yet where it’s going to end up or where they’re going, but clearly much more effort is going to the Internet side than the broadcast side.”
But Mayer won’t have to deal with it anymore. He plans to devote much of his time to a lifelong hobby of collecting and restoring classic automobiles.
“I’ve had time to look through magazines and the Internet, looking for old cars,” he said. “And I’ve had time to take trips to look at them, and I’ve even acquired a couple of classic cars since I’ve retired. I’ve had time to work on them. I now have time to do things I could never do before.
“I just fully detailed — including painting the entire engine compartment — a 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible and I recently bought what may be the finest original classic car that I have ever owned, a 1965 Cadillac Sedan de Ville with 23,400 original miles. It’s a one-owner car that’s been sitting in the owner’s garage in Davie for 45 years. It’s a time capsule type of car. I love working on cars.”