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Guest Commentary: Inside Roger King: Passion and a Drive for Hard Work

Dec 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

When I was a little girl, I used to learn about legends in school. They were (usually) men who dared to dream what others called impossible.
They imagined what others had never conceived. Where most saw boundaries, the legends saw new beginnings. They invented machines, founded nations, created industries.
I used to read about legends when I was little. I never dreamt I would work for one.
Roger King entered my life nearly a decade and a half ago. He was already a larger-than-life figure in the business. As a local anchor in Chicago, I’d watched him take that nice lady on the competition and bring her uplifting talk and common sense to a huge audience nationwide.
I’d seen as a correspondent at NBC and CBS how that upstart little newsmagazine of his was scooping us on some of the biggest news stories. I’d read up on the man and knew how he’d singlehandedly changed the television business, literally creating the TV syndication industry by going door to door with “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”
But it wasn’t until I met the man that I had a clue how he did it. The minute I shook Roger King’s hand, I knew: It was his intensity. And his Herculean capacity for hard work.
It was hard for Roger to understand why anyone would do anything other than work. Recently, when one King World employee who’d been with him since the beginning said, “I think I’d like to leave,” Roger asked, “Why?” She responded, “Well, I’d like to spend a little time being a wife and a mother and a grandmother.”
Roger’s response? “What’ll you do the rest of the day?”
Nothing about Roger was halfway. When I met him and his brother Michael for lunch at 21, it was to pass the highest rung on the King World inspection ladder. I was being hired to anchor “Inside Edition.”
Roger’s intensity and passion were electrifying. He lunged across the table extolling the virtues of “Inside Edition”—and he believed every word of what he said.
Unlike any other show in the King World stable, “Inside Edition” was Roger’s baby. Conceived by him, birthed by him, sold, upgraded, defended and celebrated by Roger King. There is no other show on television today that has had such all-encompassing support from a single individual in every aspect of its being. I suspect there never will be again. We were like Roger’s fourth child—and our devoted father never let us forget it.
The hallmark of “Inside Edition” is solid investigative, enterprise journalism. Yes, we do human-interest and keep tabs on the celebs—and OK, we did do that turtle the other day that does dog tricks—but it’s our investigative unit that makes us stand out.
And it’s there at Roger’s insistence. At a time when the television airwaves were filled with head-bashing, chair-crashing talk and bosom-revealing, thigh-baring sleaze, Roger King embarked on his own “clean airwaves” mission. On that point, and many others, we were joined at the hip.
Similarly, for Roger, “good enough” never was. Again, his intensity drove him—and consequently the rest of us in the King World family—to work harder, longer and with greater intensity than our competitors. That work ethic—not just clearly articulated, but demonstrated every day—started at the top with Roger. It’s what made King World the billion-dollar television empire it became. That work intensity was there until the very end.
And every member of the King World family took pride in that accomplishment—and in the work ethic that made it happen.
But there was something that aroused even more passion in Roger than his work: his family. And he was especially proud of his family name—one of the few times I ever saw Roger get emotional was when he was talking about his dad, Charlie King.
Roger hated to get awards and turned most of ’em down, but several years ago, he agreed to accept the Fred Ziv award on his father’s behalf, recognizing Mr. King’s work as a syndication pioneer. Roger clearly got his derring-do from his dad. He gave a spectacular acceptance speech, talking about the struggles of his father’s early days—and how he spent virtually each day trying to live up to a name like King. Later, over drinks at the hotel bar, I told Roger how proud his dad would have been of his speech. He sort of gulped and was quiet—and said, “Uh, yeah, maybe so.” Nothing more.
Roger King could be gruff and imposing and sometimes downright scary—but I knew right then, the insides were made of 100% mush.
With his enormous capacity for work, Roger King brought entertaining television to every corner of the globe. And you can bet right now, St Peter’s getting an earful about quarter-hour share points and improving celestial demos.
Thanks to Roger’s outsized compassion and generosity to the Miami Project, among other causes, new therapies are enhancing the quality of life for people desperate for it.
And thanks to his dedication to the company founded by his father, hundreds of employees have lived comfortable lives, educated their children and been able to plan for their futures.
When I was a little girl, I used to read about legends. Today, I say goodbye to one. We won’t see his likes ever again.
God bless you, Roger.
Deborah Norville is anchor of CBS Television Distribution’s “Inside Edition.” This commentary is an abridged version of remarks Ms. Norville made at Mr. King’s funeral.

9 Comments

  1. A note to Deborah
    As a life long personal friend of Roger monroe King I would like to thank you for your very kind words.
    Sincerely,
    Rick Wills

  2. if every editor wrote like you believe me the world would be a better place! this was an excellent read expecting more!

  3. if every editor wrote like you believe me the world would be a better place! this was an excellent read expecting more!

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  5. I mean, I could see all this fuss over the guy if he’d led Jersey to the Finals

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