Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Janet Tegley | newly former Senior Producer for It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle

Interview :: Janet Tegley
by Ruth Weisberg, 1 May 2007

This month's Creative Personality is Janet Tegley, newly former Senior Producer for It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle, the multiple Emmy Award-winning news talk show on Comcast CN8.

Janet Tegley can be reached at: [email protected].

PCG: What motivating factors and influences fueled you to become a television producer?

JT: I'm am accidental careerist. Television is my fourth career. It was really a continuation and culmination of things I had done earlier: teaching, social activism, program development, radio show hosting, public relations, plus having a curiosity about a lot of things and being naturally chatty. I never planned to go into television; it was a convergence of good preparation, networking and being in the right place at the right time. I was very fortunate to work at Channel 6 (WPVI-TV) and Comcast CN8, two stations that helped me to grow and to develop beyond measure.

PCG: I must say, it's rather rare and unusual to nab your first television gig at a flagship station like Channel 6. How'd you land such a lucky break?

JT: I started as a fill-in producer at AM/Philadelphia, subbing for producers on vacation. Then a news story called OJ Simpson came along, a producer left, and I went from fill-in to permanent temporary. Eventually, I was hired full-time and worked on AM/Philadelphia, AM/Live, Philly After Midnight and Sunday Live. I also did a lot of field producing for television specials like the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Bike Race, the Flower Show and Miss America pre-shows.

"I've learned so much from guests I've booked; it has certainly broadened my outlook and... it has given me an increased appreciation for my own life."

PCG: What special skills or talents came into play to locate and book such high-caliber guests?

JT: I've always been a wannabe librarian. I also have good research skills, which are very valuable. You can't be afraid to call people who don't want to talk to you. This can be difficult, particularly in tragic situations, so you also need a lot of empathy, which I have. I'm also not there to judge someone, although a few times I've said I wouldn't call someone. You have to know something about a lot of things, since the people we want on the show cover an enormous range of situations. That can be a challenge, but it was the part I found the most rewarding. I've learned so much from guests I've booked; it has certainly broadened my outlook and at the same time, it has given me an increased appreciation for my own life. The other important factor is being able to be honest with people. The shows I've worked on didn't ambush guests or have agendas. I'd tell guests what to expect and that's what they got. I wouldn't work in a situation where I couldn't deliver that.

PCG: Working in live television, anything can – and usually does – happen, especially when it comes to planning segments, topics, and booking guests. What was a typical day like for you?

JT: Our live, viewer interactive TV talk show followed local and world news events, so we usually were able to plan a few days ahead. We'd decide on topics. If there were specific newsmakers connected to an issue, I'd go after them first. If not, then I'd find people to debate a topic in an informed and interesting way. I was--and still am--always looking for people in all kinds of areas.

PCG: What's your preferred and proven way for cultivating those kinds of segments and contacts?

JT: I use newspapers, the Internet, guests on other shows, publicists, authors on book tours, people I meet wherever I go. We'd try to have guests in place by late afternoon for the following day's program, unless a breaking or bigger story came up the next day, in which case it meant getting and booking guests the same day. We also had to think about back-up guests in case our preferred guests weren't available or cancelled at the last minute, which luckily didn't happen often. There's a lot of juggling, working on more than one show at a time, deadlines and stress. I know some people loved to get my call and others didn't. Oh, and lawyers loved to hear from me!

PCG: What ideal or special qualities do you look for in a guest? As we both know, just because someone is big, famous and/or important doesn't mean they're going to translate into 'good copy' or 'good television.

JT: Talk show guests have to be engaging, enthusiastic, informed and interesting. Actors on satellite tours are dicey – they can be great when it comes to playing a role, but really dull as themselves. I certainly have booked my share of duds who were great on the phone and then a disappointment on the air. I have wonderful stories about those, and without revealing any names, let's just say that Wally Kennedy and Lynn Doyle were very forgiving hosts!

"Some of my favorite guests are people I don't agree with
on anything."

PCG: What were some of the responses you got when people found out you're a television producer from the 4th largest media market?

JT: I think some people were surprised I'm a bit older than they expected – including some guys! But my maturity was also a big part of my success. And my personality doesn't match my appearance. I have a conservative, goody two-shoes look that thinly covers a very warped sense of humor (college friends suggested I do stand-up comedy) that comes out pretty fast and catches people off guard. I have an unconventional outlook on a lot of things. But, at the same time, I get along with lots of different people because I truly enjoy interacting with people who have different viewpoints. Some of my favorite guests are people I don't agree with on anything.

PCG: Any outstanding show topics or guests that particularly resonate with you?

JT: I started at Comcast CN8 a week before 9/11 and spent the next two months talking to people who had lost loved ones. Over the years, I've become close to several of them and it's been so gratifying to see what they have done with their lives. In a small way we helped some of them recover. And, in turn, they have become inspirations for me.

PCG: How about unusual perks to your job? Hmm, autographed books, photos, all-access backstage passes, souvenirs, or seeing famous people without makeup?!

JT: The best perks for me are the books I got to read. There were occasional invitations to theater openings and such, but ours is a nighttime show, so I didn't go. I've never been star-struck by celebrities, and the definition has become so diluted. I grew up in LA around movie and TV families and saw the difference between their public and private lives. It was one of the reasons I wanted to live somewhere else – and it's so ironic that I ended up in TV!

PCG: To borrow a time-worn TV phrase, what's 'coming up next' for you?

JT: I wish I knew! I'm looking forward to discovering what it is. I have a strong "social worker" streak. I care a lot about literacy, education, healthcare, women's issues, about people being informed and involved voters, about people getting a chance to succeed. I want to get involved in something where I can help make a difference. I thought this epiphany was mine alone until I read millions of other boomers were having the same one. I may have to take a number and wait in line. I just hope the line isn't too long!

Print Article