WTTW Pledge Drive

Last night I worked the on air pledge drive for WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago. My neighbor let me use his car to drive up to their studio and that really helped my commute especially on the way home. Even with heavy traffic and an errand I arrived almost an hour early so I sat in their lobby and waited.

Some of the talent from Chicago Tonight walked by including Carol Marin, Elizabeth Brakett and Eddie Arruza. I didn’t ask for an autograph or picture so you’ll have to take my word for it. Soon the lobby filled up with other volunteers including one rather large group who all seemed to be wearing red shirts. I just so happened to be wearing a red shirt, but brought two of my party shirts to change into as the night went on.

About 6:30 a women came out and lead us to the cafeteria for a delicious Swedish dinner that was provided by Tre Kronor Restaurant. There was a cucumber salad with a dill, parsley, sweet and sour dressing that was amazing.

I sat near the door and when Allen, the pledge drive supervisor, came to take us to Studio “B” I was among the first people in line. When we walked into the studio we were instructed to fill up the top tier bench, then the high top tables and finally the regular table tops and benches.

Allen gave us a quick run down on how to log in to the phone queue and the web based pledge system. That night they were rolling out a new online auction bid system for a pair of guitars that were autographed by Buddy Guy & Joe Bonamassa. We did a sampled pledge and they showed us the bid system. Unbeknown to us, the bid system was live and someone entered a really high bid that the programmers had to back out literally just moments before the first break.

Allen also gave us some rules on studio etiquette and on air behavior. I knew in advance that the programming for that night was scheduled to be “Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 3” and “The Legacy of Jim Croce”. We didn’t know who the hosts were until just before air time and one was the famous John “Records” Landecker. I honestly didn’t recognize the other host and didn’t get her name.

My first two calls were hang ups and the pace was extremely slow. In fact I had no calls during the first break and only one call during the second and third breaks. Both of the volunteers seated to either side of me had been there before and said that they usually have a higher volume of calls.

The spot I picked out just happened to be the one that when camera #1 was on I could be seen directly behind the host. I didn’t know this until the first break and could see myself on the studio monitor. I would lean over behind the hosts and smile to the camera, and then lean back. The volunteers to my right were laughing and egging me on to wave, but I didn’t want to get kicked off so I mostly behaved myself.

During one of the last breaks our supervisor starting telling us stories about WTTW, the history of Studio “B” including the former home of Soundstage, his involvement with many productions and his favorite celebrities.

I wound up only getting $300 worth of pledges and my last call came just as the last break ended. The caller was a regular supporter of WTTW and as I was taking her pledge she said that the Jim Croce video really touched her. She told me about a friend who stood up at her wedding that happened to be on the plane that crashed and killed Jim. She came back from her honeymoon to attend the funeral and the show had reminded her of that friend and those events. I thanked her for her support and called it a night.

All in all it was fun even if the viewers weren’t calling. We got ice cream and Studio “B” was a nice cool place to spend time on hot muggy night. For more information on how you can get on TV visit WTTW and look for the volunteer application.

Nineteen done and only 31 more to go!!

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