By G. Michael Dobbs
Like everyone else I heard the news on Jan. 6 that Katherine “Kitty” Broman had passed away at the age of 97.
I’m sure there are plenty of people younger than age 50 who had no idea just who she was or the significance she had not just in local television, but in the national television industry as well.
To say that Broman was a pioneer is barely saying enough. Starting in 1953 when WWLP went on the air as the nation’s first commercially licensed UHF television station – it beat WGGB by one month – Broman was part of a group of people who created daily original programming.
For most current television viewers the concept of local television programming is fairly foreign, unless you live in major media market. Throughout the country, though, local stations filled much of their airtime with material they created.
There were shows such as Broman’s, as well as interview shows, sports broadcasts and kid’s shows. It was a very different time in this country and for the broadcasting industry.
Television at that time, like radio, reflected a local area. With today’s influx of syndicated programming the offerings of stations all look alike. How many gossip shows can we have? Judge shows? Talk shows with a celebrity host?
Local television stations have, for a variety of reasons, ceased having an identifiable look and style a long time ago – with the exception of the news broadcasts.
Broman created a show that was designed for the stay-at-home mom, whose ranks were considerably larger in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. If you were raised here at all during that time, you probably will remember on vacation days watching the show with your mother. I know I did.
Cooking segments, interviews with local people and celebrities passing through the area were all part of the mix for Broman.
Broman was never pretentious on air and put people at ease. She seemed to be one of us, like the other local TV personalities, which was definitely a strength.
She had management duties as well at the station and was the first woman to sit on the board of directors of the National Association of Broadcasters. She was also active in charity work as well.
Although WWLP has undergone many changes in ownership and format, I’m happy to note that it still produces local programming on almost a daily basis, besides its newscasts. That is a real distinction in a market the size of ours.
Broman was part of an era that has past, but in many ways I wish was still with us. The strength of local media is being local. People need to know what is happening in their community and region in order to be truly connected to it. The daily slop of celebrity gossip and other pabulum on television does nothing to advance a sense of community that the programming of years ago did.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.