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Editorial: Goodbyes to Johansen are bittersweet

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It will soon be time to say farewell to Bruce Johansen, at least in his capacity as president and CEO of the National Association of Television Program Executives.
Mr. Johansen leaves at a time the organization faces great challenges but has also shown that it can evolve and survive.
During his decade at the helm he has turned a domestic organization into an international force. He has expanded the mandate to include areas such as sports and children’s programming, while also reaching out to future generations with workshops and educational seminars. He was a great advocate of technology and played a role in the growth of digital and high-definition TV.
Under his watch the membership has expanded to encompass more than 4,000 individuals and corporations. He was a tower of strength through the halcyon years in the late 1990s, when attendance peaked in the 20,000 range and exhibitors’ booths grew to astronomical proportions.
His greatest achievement may well be the very survival of NATPE after a sudden downturn began about two years ago. The economic downturn, the Sept. 11 attacks and an industrywide consolidation left NATPE reeling. For a time it appeared to have lost its way, but Mr. Johansen played a pivotal role in helping get it back on course.
Suave and gentlemanly, Mr. Johansen presented an appealing, intelligent face for the organization. He executed his duties with an even hand and deftly maneuvered the waves of criticism that were aimed at NATPE in recent years.
We think Mr. Johansen deserves credit and praise for all that he accomplished and for putting a plan in place for the future before he resigned.
We will take issue with the way Mr. Johansen handled his exit. We believe he did not get the fanfare he deserved this year at his final convention.
On the eve of the gathering in New Orleans, Electronic Media reported, based on impeccable sources, that Mr. Johansen would step down after this year’s event. He chose to deny the report, only to turn around 10 days later and confirm that he would depart as soon as a replacement could be found.
He did not give his many friends and colleagues the chance to say goodbye and left some journalists feeling burned by his denial.
Ultimately, that is a small thing. What Mr. Johansen accomplished in his decade is the big thing, and whoever takes his place had better have very big feet. He or she will have large shoes to fill.