I am but one lowly reporter working in a field that men like you are going to eventually destroy, so you’ll never read this, you’ll never see this, but I feel that after years of promoting Turner Classic Movies in my paper and on my website, I owe it to myself and my readers to address what’s happening right now.
The “layoff” of Genevieve McGillicuddy, Charles Tabesh, and Pola Changnon, among others, is one of the most vile things I’ve witnessed in my years of reporting-and I had to report from a rally where I was harassed and called “fake news” repeatedly.
I sat in the second row during this year’s Turner Classic Film Festival for the screening of The Big Chill. I’m sure you don’t know this since you left after walking the red carpet the first night, but this film was the big closing movie. The cherry on top of the sundae, if you will.
During that screening, Ben Mankiewicz told a story about a woman who shared with him how much the network helped her after the Boston Marathon bombing.
“We’re just a TV channel, and the world has a lot of problems. But I want you to know from the top down. From our boss, who some of you met Thursday night, he was here, David Zaslav, all the way down to all five of the hosts and every executive of the channel, every producer, production assistant, and director we have that we take this job seriously because we know it matters to you,” said Mankiewicz.
Ben thanked those who helped get the festival together, like Genevieve McGillicuddy, who was there in person, and Pola Changnon and Anne Wilson, who also contributed so much.
“See you all next year at our 2024 Classic Film Festival, our 15th or even sooner on our TCM Classic Film Cruise in November.”
Many of us felt it was lip service, not by Ben, but by you to Ben, however, we still hoped another festival meant another few good years of TCM on our television screens.
We couldn’t imagine we’d be here only a few months later.
Nothing I can do or anyone can do will sway your mind from destroying something that so many hold so near and dear.
But let me tell you a few things about TCM.
I can remember the first film I watched on TCM, can you?
I can remember where I was, what the room looked like and how I felt, do you?
I remember seeing Wuthering Heights my first time on TCM. I was sitting in my living room as a young mom. It was sunny, the windows were open, and it smelled like fresh-cut grass as my baby sat in his bouncer watching the movement on the screen.
I remember the night I watched He Who Gets Slapped for the first time on Silent Sunday Nights. I was in bed, my TV was on my dresser, I was facing south and my bedroom smelled like apples.
Those films had such a massive impact on my life that I remember everything about the first time I saw so many of them.
TCM is more than just a movie network for a great many people.
It’s a lifeline.
It’s a connection.
It’s a community.
I can say for myself that TCM has been there when I’ve been sick, when I gave birth, when I’ve been depressed and couldn’t get out of bed, when I was worried I might die from Covid, when I sat and watched my grandmother die, and most importantly when I needed to strengthen the relationship with my father.
Because of TCM, we discovered we have a shared love of classic film. We can sit together and spend hours discussing what Ben said in an intro to a specific movie, what I will do at the next festival, or what I got to do at the last festival.
The fans who attended the festival and cruise are not the only fans of the network.
I write a little column in a little newspaper in a little town, but the feedback I get from so many people across the country about how much they love the network is staggering. These people of all ages look forward to certain times of the year. Each winter they look forward to the Christmas movies they only get to see on TCM. In August, they get Summer Under the Stars, when they’ll discover new favorite actors because of a day dedicated to that actor/actress. And in February and March, 31 days of Oscar, when they’ll see the greatest films of all time for one perfect month.
Ted Turner, Robert Osborne, and all the staff at TCM have built a personal relationship with millions of viewers, and in the blink of an eye, it will be destroyed.
I know this is all about money-isn’t it always? But you have no idea the magnitude of this decision and how it hurts so many people, old and young.
I know you won’t be affected by this in any way. It won’t bother you. It’s another business decision, a horrible one at that. That little channel you hilariously said was always on in your office, that channel gives some of us hope and an escape from the hell of today’s world. The greed in people like you, nastiness, and death we see daily in the news. We get that escape through TCM, and now, just like we feared, you are taking it away and hiding behind “business decisions.”
Regular people like my readers and I are the people you should be catering to; we are losing a friend who’s been there for us through all the bad times and some of the best times of our lives spent sitting by the Hollywood Roosevelt pool with people we love watching the films we need. Those have been some of our best days because we can’t fly off to whatever island we want whenever we want. We save all year to gather together for our shared love, classic film and TCM. Do you know how that feels?
I’d like you to understand how important TCM is to us and how it has been a constant source of comfort and joy. It’s essential to have something to rely on during good and bad times; TCM has been that for us. I hope that TCM continues to provide that for us and that we continue to enjoy fantastic films with the people we love.
It’s important to acknowledge that our investment in TCM is significant in terms of money and time. We expect that our investment will be respected and that your decisions will reflect a deep understanding of the value of curation and movie history. We hope you act on this understanding and show that you genuinely care about preserving film history and our bond with fellow fans, the films and the employees of the network.
I’m passionate about my work as a reporter and the impact of Turner Classic Movies on my readers and community. I’m hopeful that the quality of the channel, the staff and the festival will continue to thrive and that the network will continue to produce quality content that matters to people.
I wish you felt the same way.
By Nikki McKim