By Gwen Stanley, Standard Staff
At the second in a series of four forums called “Meet Your Local Media,” the growing pains that come with the venture into the world of new media was a topic of discussion with guest speaker Marselis Parsons.
Forum moderator Bob Hager, himself a veteran newsman with NBC, introduced Parsons and ticked off a lengthy list of accomplishments the former news director and anchor has under his belt.
Parsons, who drove from his Shelburne home to Woodstock’s Norman William Public Library, credits his work with former colleagues as the source of much of his success.
After being introduced as legendary, Parsons replied, “Legendary just means you’ve outlasted everybody.”
Parsons addressed the sea change in the news business since his start in the 1970s.
“Words are changing. The business is changing. I once had a Bell and Howell camera — remember those gems?” he said. “Now, it’s tablets. Everybody’s going to have a tablet. And everybody wants to know what’s going on and they want to know now. How much do they want to pay for the information?” Parsons formed an “O” with his fingers, “zero.”
He pointed out that the Valley News and the Rutland Herald have both put up a paywall on their web sites.
“It’s something we have to do now — monetize it,” he said.
Parsons said that the station’s move toward electronic media has meant, in some cases, additional staff.
“We have a full-time person just to deal with Facebook,” Parsons told the audience.
“Our weather app got 5,000 downloads. Too bad they still can’t predict the weather correctly,” he joked.
Parsons was asked if he was still affiliated with WCAX and indeed, he has been doing the occasional human interest story for the channel. On a large screen, Parsons projected for the audience two of the segments he’s worked on since retiring; one, a lighthearted look at antique boats in Montreal, the other a story on little-noticed and eccentric candidates in the New Hampshire primaries.
It’s the people stories that Parsons seems to thrive on, and though he talked about television news, he kept coming back to stories that spotlighted personalities and interactions between people he’d met in his travels.
Parsons told the story of running into Mike Wallace in the Bahamas.
“He said to me, ‘You know, you ought to think about working for CBS News,’” and I didn’t want to just call them up and say ‘Hey, I’m friends with Mike Wallace’ because I had only talked to him for a couple hours.”
Parsons said he got home and got a call from a recruiter with CBS, and they chatted about where coverage was needed — the recruiter said an anchor was needed in Rochester, N.Y.
“I told him, ‘Rochester? The biggest thing their deli has is cream cheese.’”
“He said ‘I’m from Rochester.’”
Needless to say, that position didn’t work out for Parsons.
Parsons said the average six o’clock news watcher is 60-65 years old.
“You are our audience,” he said.
Parsons said he didn’t claim to have any easy answers about the trend toward electronic media but said that he himself becoming a reluctant consumer of it.
“I’ve found that I can be out my boat and pick up my Smartphone and read the news an hour later. The station has to figure out how to monetize that,” Parsons said.
The third forum in the “Meet Your Local Media Series” will feature Valley News editor and political columnist John Gregg. It will be held March 7 at 6 p.m., at the Norman Williams Pubic Library in Woodstock.