Faith & Doubt / Relationships

Farewell to ‘The Chief,’ Phil Sturholm

(Most of us hit a career bump with an insufferably bad boss.  Perhaps once in a lifetime  you’re privileged to work with a boss who encourages, mentors, and literally changes your life.  For me, that is TV journalism’s legendary Phil Sturholm.)

This is the tipping point in life, my life:  I am attending more funerals than weddings, receiving more terminal illness announcements than birth announcements. It just is that way…

Today, tears flowed at a touching funeral mass of hope and reconciliation, and later laughter flowed as we reminiscenced over cheeseburgers, fries, and candy bars (!) at a heartfelt farewell celebration for a friend, mentor, and the best boss in my career: our legendary Phil Sturholm.

img_6765

ENCOURAGING…

Winner of 33 Emmys (he used them as doorstops), Phil encouraged me in my work at KIRO-TV, Seattle’s CBS affiliate, and became my boss when I shifted into reporting. He nudged me when the Soviet Union fell — to take a chance.  And I did: reporting in Russian as a senior correspondent for Soviet TV with an audience of 50 to 70 million, and later working in Moscow’s ABC News bureau.

When I returned to Seattle in the mid-’90s, Phil and I worked together at a Paul Allen-funded Seattle dot-com startup, where I created and anchored interactive video news packages and Phil shot and edited them for a brand-new medium called “CD-ROM,” and later the “World Wide Web” – today known as the “internet.”  It was an incredibly exciting time; Phil was so game to embracing all those dizzying changes in our news mediums, and in our news coverage.  Few in the world were doing what Phil and I were crafting: the freedom to “make it up” as we went along in a brand-new medium that has become standard TV/video/online news today.

GRAPPLING…

There is something quite stunning about working in TV news:  The friendships forged in the face of television’s breaking-news adversities, deaths, and dramas are lasting; no other place I’ve worked comes close to the meaningful friendships so long ago rooted at KIRO-TV.  In my deepest disappointments, Phil encouraged me, even as I listened to him ask ‘why?’ in the face of the senseless murder of his brother, Larry – a reporter who also had worked at KIRO-TV.  His wife and family were so kind to me as well, as Phil and I often edited videos at his home studio, breaking to talk along the way. Over the years our conversations yielded no obvious answers to anything Phil and I discussed.  It was just that way, with no easy endings…

GRACE…

Years later, Phil came to terms with that brutal loss of Larry: meeting his brother’s killer in prison, dealing face-to-face with grace, forgiveness, or not.  After that encounter, Phil chose to be baptized, blessed, reconciled – bestowed grace, even as he offered grace…

Phil died the way my father died: instantly, of a heart attack.  My dad was on the phone talking with my sister; Phil was taking out the trash.  In a way, it’s fitting there was no breaking-news dramatic ending, just the ordinary stuff of life…  As with my father, I didn’t get to say goodbye to Phil, so this is my farewell.

We will forever miss you, Phil, grateful that you touched our lives and encouraged us in our dreams…Signature_80