Making "Today" Happen
Each weekday morning,
thousands of Annapolitans start their day with NBC's "Today" show---but
they may not know that an Annapolitan has a lot to do with what
they see. Rich Minner, a 13-year resident of Annapolis and a writer/producer
for the "Today" show says, "I'm just an ordinary guy." Oh sure,
an ordinary guy who deals daily with the rich and famous, the
infamous, and the about-to-be famous. A guy who was recently in
the Middle East prepping for a Thanksgiving show. A guy with one
of the more interesting jobs anyone could think of, where work
is fun and fun can be work. A guy who could claim Willard Scott
and Bryant Gumble taught him everything he ever wanted to know
about being humble...but doesn't.
After graduation from Penn State, Rich came to a job in Washington
with the Mutual Radio Network on Aug. 9, 1974, a date he remembers
well because that was the day President Nixon resigned. As the
"new guy," he was assured by his fellow writers and reporters
that it was a pretty good story to start a career.
He resigned from Mutual in 1982 and came to NBC Radio News. Rich
said he "dabbled" with TV news a few days a week, which was fortunate
because in 1987, in a strange twist of fate, NBC Radio was sold
to Mutual, and he ended up with NBC-TV News. Less than a year
later, he joined the "Today" Washington, D.C., bureau of five
writer/producers with the assignment of staying on top of what's
happening in our nation's capital. According to Rich, "Our local
news is everyone else's national news." Keeping track of the administration,
the assortment of federal agencies, and the comings and goings
of presidents, first ladies and officials from around the world
means things are never dull for Rich and his colleagues.
Rich relishes his "behind the scenes" role. The TV viewer sees
just a handful of people on screen, not the wild flurry of off-camera
activity. A typical production of the "Today" show involves more
than 100 writers, associate producers and researchers on the editorial
side and another 50 camera, sound, lighting, and direction crew.
"It continues to amaze me just how well things work, given that
so many people play a part in bringing you this show," says Rich.
He mentions one humorous incident when things didn't quite go
as planned. One day, just minutes before an interview with the
director of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Rich located a DEA seal
and fastened it to the background with 2-inch tape. "You could
disable an elephant with this stuff," Rich recalls, "but midway
through a very serious interview, the tape let go and the seal
went crashing to the floor, much to the consternation of the director
and the amusement of his staff gathered nearby."
Recently, Rich was in the Middle East----Bahrain to be exact---aboard
the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln prepping for a Thanksgiving
segment. He spent two days aboard what he describes as a "floating
city" working with the officers and crew. "That four-acre ship
showcases 19-year-olds bringing in $40 million aircraft on what
must appear to be a postage stamp---and doing it very well. All
Americans would be extremely proud if they could see what I observed
aboard the Lincoln-t--he dedication and effectiveness of the entire
ship's company is truly amazing."
This was not his first experience with aircraft carriers, however.
In 1999, he spent two weeks aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt
preparing for one of his "Where-in-the-World is Matt Lauer" shows.
"We were in the Ionian Sea launching aircraft and missiles over
Kosovo and I remember saying to myself, 'I'm glad I'm where they're
being launched rather than where they're going.'"
Arranging a carrier segment takes lots of advance planning, according
to Rich, but keeping up with breaking news doesn't always allow
for it. Rich estimates about 10 percent of the "Today" show originates
in Washington, but it's usually concentrated in the first half
hour when the news is being updated. "We have the show side and
the news side. The news side works 24 hours a day while the show
side usually arrives between 4 and 5 a.m. and does the last minute
updating and preparations. Most of the show is pretty tightly
scripted, but we always allow for spontaneous comments from on-camera
No one is more spontaneous than Rich's old buddy, Willard Scott.
"I've worked with Willard since 1988 and what you see is what
you get. He's the same guy on and off-camera, one of the funniest
and most delightful people I've ever met," says Rich. Willard
is semi-retired now but still does a Tuesday and Thursday segment
featuring his patented tributes to 100-year-olds.
Rich recalls arranging remote segments from Annapolis City Dock
featuring Willard a few years ago. "Remotes can be fun but require
lots of preparation when you consider the three to four minutes
we're on camera," Rich says. "When we did our segments from Annapolis,
we first had to contact local officials to make the appropriate
arrangements. Thankfully, doing our shot early in the morning
made parking a bit more manageable downtown, because our camera,
sound and lighting crews arrive about two hours before what we
call 'hit time' and they need to be close to the site." Rich always
likes to come to Annapolis because it's home for him. But the
rest of the crew enjoys it, too, because it is one of the prettiest
places on earth in which to work.
Actually, that's what drew Rich to Annapolis in the first place.
He was living in Springfield, Va., but visited Annapolis often
because of his love of sailing. "I thought Annapolis would be
a great place to raise a family, to be closer to the water, to
sail whenever I had time and to have a manageable commute," says
Rich. "My family and I really love living here." Rich and his
wife Chris have two daughters. The 18-year-old is a freshman at
the College of Charleston (South Carolina) and his sports-oriented
16-year-old attends Annapolis High School and plays lacrosse.
Rich is always surprised about how busy he is, traveling just
enough to suit him but not to allow much time for golf. As a matter
of fact, his golf clubs are the same ones he purchased when he
was a sophomore in high school, "...which tells you all you need
to know about what kind of golfer I am," he says.
"All in all, I guess I'm very lucky to have one of the best jobs
around, full of variety and interesting people, and to call Annapolis