By Nann Goplerud, Executive Producer of Special Projects, WFAA-TV
Everyone who ever worked for Marty Haag has a story to tell. Some have to be edited, but most share the common themes of inspiration, intimidation, and humor.
When Marty hired me as a general assignment reporter in early 1984, I was thrilled! I remember that first day, walking excitedly through the back door, down the long brown hallway and into Marty Haag’s newsroom. As a journalist, I felt I had arrived.
During those important years under Marty’s leadership, we grew to fear and revere him. Reporters lived under the threat of “white line fever,” symbolized by the huge, blank white line next to our names on the assignment board. It meant we hadn’t generated a good idea or a good story that day, something Marty didn’t tolerate.
I remember clearly the day Marty called in five or six of us. One by one, he explained that we were falling short of his expectations. From behind his desk, he looked over the top of his small reading glasses and pronounced, “I think you’re working at about 85 percent.” I, like the others who’d been called in, felt angry, hurt and certainly, misunderstood. I left Marty’s office muttering to myself, “He’s wrong” and “How dare he” and “I’ll show him, I’ll quit.” Not until a few hours later did the truth dawn on me. He was right.
He was usually right. His instincts were amazing. His intellect even greater. Just when we thought we had a handle on a story or concept, Marty would rock back in his chair and roll out some heady, neck-snapping take on a story. We loved listening to him think out loud.
Marty lead our newsroom staff by what I call the two “I’s” of management: Inspiration and Intimidation. Believe me, Marty mastered both! I remember feeling the need to hunker down when the newsroom had missed a story. We knew once Marty found out, a trash can might come hurtling across the room (to my knowledge, no one ever got hit!)
But for as much as we feared his outbursts, we longed to please him. One word of praise from Marty could raise our spirits (and our productivity!) for weeks!
Marty demanded the best from his staff. His expectations were high, his devotion to the craft of journalism even higher.
He expected us to read and understand the community and world around us.
He expected us to work our beats.
He expected us to generate good ideas.
He expected us to be great storytellers.
He expected us to be courageous.
He expected us to be first.
Mostly, he expected us to be right.
He believed in being aggressive and compassionate. He believed in making stories human and relevant. He believed in acting independently, in holding the powerful accountable and in doing what was right for our communities.
Marty Haag could be as silly as he was tough, often causing loud outbursts of laughter in the newsroom. We loved Marty. We loved working for him. And we loved his ethical, courageous, and magical leadership.
He leaves a huge legacy. How lucky we are to be part of it and how obligated we are to carry it on.