The Roundup: A Conversation with Mitch Semel

This week, host Wendy Corr talks to Cowboy State Daily’s video consultant Mitch Semel. Mitch is a former executive producer who created and launched TV shows at CBS, NBC, CNN and other networks. He worked with Conan O’Brien, David Letterman and Katie Couric, and on TV shows like Family Ties and Cheers. He’s also the guy to blame for Barney, the giant purple dinosaur.

Wendy Corr

June 01, 202434 min read

The Roundup Semel
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)
Watch on YouTube

Wendy Corr:

Well, hey there, folks, welcome to The Roundup. We're a Cowboy State Daily podcast, and we focus on interesting people that are connected to the Cowboy State.

And I say connected, because our guest today has a great connection to the Cowboy State. If you hear the names, say, ”Family Ties,” or “Cheers,” or “Golden Girls,” these are sitcoms, these are beloved television shows that so many of us watched religiously every week.

We are talking today to one of the gentlemen that made those shows happen - those shows and their connection to the Cowboy State is through this guy right here. Mitch Semel.

And what a unexpected gift Mitch has been - to Cowboy State Daily, and to me, as we are developing our video products, Mitch has been an invaluable source of information.

And as we're talking to Mitch - who by the way, our connection with Mitch is Jimmy Orr who is our editor at Cowboy State Daily and is really, in so many ways, responsible for Cowboy State Daily as a whole.

But Mitch and Jimmy go way back. And Mitch, I am going to ask you a little bit about Jimmy Orr and how you two met, because that's a whole different story.

But folks, I want you to get to know Mitch Semel. you might not recognize his name, but you know his work. And so, Mitch, hello! Welcome to Cowboy State Daily’s “The Roundup!”

Mitch Semel:

Thank you, always good to talk to you.

Wendy Corr:

And we have been blessed, Mitch, you and I have been able to kind of get to know each other over the past month or so because, as I said, we're developing more and more video products for Cowboy State Daily.

And, Mitch, you and Jimmy go way back to the LA Times, and the time that you were there. Tell us real quickly about your connection to the Cowboy State and to Jimmy Orr.

Mitch Semel:

Sure, sure. So Jimmy, among many cool things that he's done, was a very senior editor at the LA Times. And this goes back to the period somewhat early on, when we all in news and media were trying to figure out, ‘What's the new version of a newspaper?’

You know, I'm old enough at least, you not quite so much, to remember when a newspaper was a newspaper, right? It was printed on paper, it was delivered or you bought it. Right?

Wendy Corr:

It was THE news, it was either that or the radio, and if you wanted in depth, you had to go to the newspaper. 

Mitch Semel:

Exactly. And funny enough that you bring up radio, because part of it - and you're living proof of this - is that now newspapers are radio, and newspapers are TV, right?

As evidenced by what we're doing right now. So Jimmy, among other things, was charged with, then, figuring out what was the LA Times going to be as people were moving away from reading it - or reading it as paper, right? 

And so, they had already started doing some video. Jimmy knew my work from the Huffington Post, where we had done basically the modern version of a cable network off of a digital news platform, the HuffPost, we did something called HuffPost Live that he liked a lot.

He tracked me down and asked if I could help with the LA Times. We had a lot of fun - it was, this is now probably 15 or more years ago, and that was obviously one of the many things that Jimmy brought to bear when he had the idea for what became Cowboy State Daily.

And the fact that you're doing your daily newscast, and these longer form podcasts, is just an ongoing outgrowth of that. So I was thrilled when he showed me the site.

Even as a non-Wyoming person, I was immediately interested, and it's gotten me more interested than ever in Wyoming stories, but also in what it means for, I think of as the present and the future of news. 

Wendy Corr:

So Mitch, you and Jimmy had this great history, and you have been able to come now and be part of what we do at Cowboy State Daily, and to me a very integral part.

But I didn't know - Jimmy introduced you to us, as ‘Yeah, he worked for Conan.’ You worked with Conan O'Brien, and you worked with David Letterman.

But he didn't talk about all the other stuff that you have done - which is the stuff that I talked about at the very beginning. ‘Family Ties’ and ‘Cheers’ and ‘Golden Girls’ - you were part of that really golden age of the television sitcom for so many of us growing up!

Especially, I mean, Family Ties, Michael J. Fox, these are great stories, and I want you to tell us about those.

But first I want to talk about where you came from, who you are. How did you get into the television business? And I know that you're from Chicago, right? Tell me the story.

Mitch Semel:

The easy answer, Wendy, is by accident. I was not one of those people who knew that I was going to do it from birth. Honestly, all I knew about television growing up was that I liked watching it. And I didn't know that there were jobs or how you got them. 

But I was lucky enough, while in college, I went to a school that didn't have a broadcasting or media, or even journalism department. It was just a liberal arts school, a great one.

But a guy who was a couple of years ahead of me, who became a good friend, had started a local radio show, but rather than doing it the way everybody else did, as a college radio station, there was an opportunity - if you remember back years ago with the old Public Affairs requirements, where radio stations had to run a certain amount of news and public affairs programming?

Wendy Corr:


Mitch Semel:

This was at a time when many stations were figuring they didn't have the time or the personnel, or the expense to do it themselves. He, as a young man of about 19 years old at this point, figured out that was a market opportunity.

So we started doing a public affairs interview show. We were based in New Jersey, and so we started with local New Jersey officials. But over time, we just kept working harder, getting better and better guests, as you do, getting more stations in what had been a New Jersey network, and eventually, we grew into a national network. 

And before we knew it, we were interviewing cabinet officers, Senators, very prominent people of the day. We decided to save our money and go out to California, we got a whole bunch of celebrities to talk to us. We had a certain appeal because we were college kids.

So they thought they were doing the kids a favor, but then we really did our research and they came away happy and impressed that we had done so

Wendy Corr:

Now, you're selling yourself way short here. You went to a liberal arts college in New Jersey - you went to Princeton! 

Mitch Semel.

Yes. I didn’t mean to bury that. Yes.

Wendy Corr:

And you interviewed Jimmy Stewart. I mean, these are the kind of people that you interviewed. 

Mitch Semel:

Yes. Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Mary Tyler Moore, lots and lots of great people of that era who were very forthcoming.

They, as I say, I think they started being a little bit amused by the fact that these kids were interviewing them. But when they found that we had really done our research, went very deep into their careers and lives, they appreciated it.

And it was long form, not unlike this. 

The funny thing is, if I were to dig up some of those old tapes for you, you would say, ‘Well, that was podcasting.’ We were doing podcasting before it had been invented. 

You know, we're not adhering to a really tight broadcast schedule, as you do when you've been in radio where you know, you have to worry about, ‘Gee, every six minutes, I gotta go to a commercial.’

So the fact that we can just sit and have a conversation, that was another thing, I think that these folks liked, because they were used to doing, you know, high profile shows to promote their movies and TV shows and other projects. And so the idea that they could just sit down.

And again, because it was on radio, we could go to them. We lugged a big, then still called portable, very heavy Ampex recorder, and our own microphones - again, everything is very small and digital these days. But

I think that was part of the charm, as well, as you know, three college kids lugging this suitcase sized auto recording setup, and then setting it up at their houses, their offices, or whatever. That sounds so basic now, but that ability to travel also made a big deal.

Wendy Corr:

And that, of course, set the stage for what we now know as, like you say, modern podcasting, modern interviews - really, in so many ways modern entertainment is going and talking to people in that way.

That helped you to make connections then, to go into television. And you started out - your first major television, I guess career move, was to NBC, right?

Mitch Semel:

Going back to the founder of that radio network, as it became, had gone to a management training program at NBC. He did very well there, and a couple of years later, he said, ‘Hey, there's an opening this year in the program I was in, do you want to apply for it?’

I did, long interview process, I was lucky I got it. And within a couple of months, as the newest guy, I mean, the lowest man on the totem pole, the you know, junior most employee at this really big network, found myself working on things like Bob Hope specials.

And if you remember ‘Real People,’ which was kind of the advent of what we think of now as reality TV?

 Then I moved to the comedy department, and before I knew it, I was working on the first seasons of the shows called, ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Cheers’ and ‘Family Ties.’

I mean, I knew they were good at the time. And at some point, we realized, yeah, these are going to be classics, they're really good. So to be on stage for those was pretty remarkable.

Wendy Corr:

And that's just it. So you're a network executive for NBC. And for those of us, most of us in the cowboy state, we don't know, what does that mean? What is your job?

You see these names in the credits on these television shows, but we don't know - are you sitting in an office someplace and just kind of overseeing the production of it?

Or are you on the stage and on the set with these iconic characters with these writers with these actors? Tell us about your day to day job with these major television shows.

Mitch Semel:

Wendy, it's a great question. Because you're right, I think most people don't realize - nor should they really. You know, primarily the viewer should just enjoy the show.

But if you're at all interested, it starts with - I don't think most people realize, again, necessarily should realize, most shows are not produced by the networks on which they air. They're actually licensed. But they're in effect, custom made.

Right? There are cases, obviously, where networks just buy finished shows. And that happens more and more today.

But for the most part, the networks are very involved in thinking of the show idea or hearing a pitch from a creative producer and or writer, ultimately buying it, ultimately paying all or the lion's share of the budget. So with that comes some creative participation. 

Now, one of the benefits with all those shows - and I'll come to this in a minute - is that we were somewhat removed in a good way, so that we couldn't meddle too much in the creative process.

But at some point, the network would have, usually a junior executive - as I was then on site - with the writers, with the directors, with the other producers, at least making the buyer’s desires known. 

Now, hopefully that wasn't going through script by script and saying, ‘I think you should change what this character says.’

But it may have been, ‘Hey, understand, here's the environment in which this show is going to air, it's going to be on this night at this time.’

Back then it was more about, what show did you follow? So you were trying to make sure that there was some compatibility, so that the audience would want to stay from, you know, the eight o'clock show to the 8:30 show, whatever that might be. 

In the case of NBC, we were if you remember back, this was even before there was Fox, let alone most cable networks.

Wendy Corr:

So you’ve got three channels and PBS. 

Mitch Semel:

And when I got there, the running joke - that wasn't so much of a joke - was, we were number four in a three network race.

Yeah, we were a distant third. But it turned out to be a blessing, partly because we had very visionary leaders. The head of the whole network was a guy named Grant Tinker.

If you remember that name from broadcast history, he was a very successful producer who had produced a lot of high quality shows like ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ ‘The Bob Newhart Show,’ ‘The White Shadow.’ So he was lured to NBC, when they were, you know, at the bottom of the ratings.

He kept on a head of entertainment named Brandon Tartikoff, who was also legendary for most of what you know for NBC’s entertainment success in the 80s. 

Wendy Corr:

Must See TV, right?

Mitch Semel:

Exactly. Right. And one of the great things we all learned from Grant, because he had been a producer himself, supplying primarily to CBS, was, he used to say, ‘Don't produce the producers, let them do their jobs, and in fact, support them in doing their job.’

So whereas other networks had a reputation for coming in and trying to micromanage shows, and creative processes, he was more about, ‘No, we're lucky they’re here. We’re a distant third in the ratings race.’

But it also meant that people brought some crazier, more ambitious higher risk ideas, some of which paid off, including ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Cheers’ and ‘Family Ties.

You know, ‘Golden Girls,’ it's hard to appreciate now, but the idea of a show about four older women - which we take for granted now, because it was such a good show - that was not thought to be all that commercial going in.

But the people who made it, had had a great track record, they had produced ‘Soap,’ if you'd like that show, a lot of other shows. So there was a good example, when you trust people who have done good work or bring you a good idea.

Most of it in that job becomes about supporting them, helping them, you know, explaining to your colleagues at the network in ad sales and Research and Promotion. ‘Hey, here's what they're going for.’ Again, our job is not to change it. Our job is to say, ‘This is good. How do we help?’ 

Wendy Corr:

Let's go off just a tangent slightly here, though, with ‘Family Ties,’ there was a change. When you guys started ‘Family Ties,’ this show was supposed to be a Meredith Baxter Birney and Michael Gross vehicle. It was supposed to be their show. And when you think ‘Family Ties’ now, you don't think about them, as much as you think about Michael J. Fox. Right?

Tell us about that. Because that's behind the scenes stuff, again, for iconic television shows for us, and memories for us and part of our own personal histories, to know that little bit of of, you know, that could have been, and this is what you came. But you had a hand in that.

Mitch Semel:

I didn't have a hand in shaping that particular element. I certainly, along with the rest of the team, benefited. But there are a bunch of people in that story who really deserve the credit, starting with Gary Goldberg. He was the creator and showrunner, as it's called, the writing executive producer of ‘Family Ties.’

It was based on his own life, okay, where he, having grown up as literally a Berkeley University of California, Berkeley liberal, and his wife, had noticed how conservative their two daughters were by comparison.

And he had been a writer for Bob Newhart, for Tony Randall, for ‘The White Shadow,’ for ‘Lou Grant.’ So he had a great track record. And understandably, when the show started, he wanted to tell essentially, his and his wife’s story. 

So he was farsighted enough, and lucky enough to cast Meredith and Michael as the stars.

And within the first couple of shows, even before the show was on the air, the studio audience was reacting so well to Michael as a character, Alex as a character, but Michael as the performer, performing Alex B. Keaton, so that it was, it was hard to miss.

And probably the next hero of the story is Michael Whitehorn, who was one of the junior writers - he later went on to do, among other things, the ‘King of Queens,’ with Kevin James.

So here was, he is a very talented writer himself, he was basically saying to Gary, a boss, that, it's obvious, we got something here, we've got to start orienting the show toward the kid, or the kids.

And, Gary, you know, having created the show, and having it be about himself, by his own admission, was a little bit reluctant to do so.

But ultimately, again, week after week, the studio audience is responding so well to Michael, and Justine and Tina as the other kids.

And equally - so you have to give credit to Michael Fox for being that talented, but especially to Meredith and Michael Gross for being as professional as actors as they did.

You know, Meredith was the star going into the show, Michael had a very successful career on Broadway, they could have easily said, ‘Hey, this is not for me, we didn't sign up for this.’

But to their credit, they stayed, did their own great work, and let it blossom into the ensemble show that it became, that was obviously what people responded to. We would not have run for all those years, if all those people had not played their part. 

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely. You have so many stories, and there's no way we can get them all in our podcast. So I want to shift gears here, because you were at NBC for seven years, and then you ended up going to PBS? 

Mitch Semel:

Actually, sorry, I was at NBC for about four years. I went to UBU productions for six years, which was the company that produced ‘Family Ties.’ And then yes, I went to PBS after that.

Wendy Corr:

Okay, so you went to PBS. And we want to talk about another iconic show - that, those of us who were parents at that age wanted to absolutely shoot the television, because - I'm holding you responsible, Mitch, I'm holding you responsible for Barney. 

Because you were a vice president, executive vice president at PBS at the time, and this show comes as, ‘Okay, what shows do we want to put out here this year?

We have the money to launch these shows, and we could do this, and there's the one about this purple dinosaur…’ and I just don't know. Tell us this story. Please tell us the story.

Mitch Semel:

It's still a painful chapter. I blame myself more, and it's kind of worse, because I'm the guy who tried and failed to kill Barney.

Wendy Corr:

You tried to kill him? Oh, yeah. Share. 

Mitch Semel:

So to go back, you're absolutely right. We were in the midst of an initiative - you know, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers were still running.

But obviously PBS had become, and still is hugely important in children's television programming. And so we had gathered some money from a bunch of sources, we had an initiative where we could fund pilot seasons of three shows. Shari Lewis, and Lambchop did a new show, ‘Play Along,’ right? ‘Thomas the Tank Engine,’ and ‘Barney.’ 

And Barney, if you remember, had started as a very successful series of home videos from a production company out of Dallas, Texas.

And we put the three shows on with the express intention, and with the agreement of the producers, ‘Hey, we're going to see what happens here.

But we can only fund one of you going forward.’ And so the trial period ended, we decided that Shari Lewis's show was the best of the three, and went forward with that. 

And then we started hearing from local station managers. And they said, ‘Yeah, we hate Barney, too. It's just, it's like record scratching on our ears, right?

But we're hearing from parents how - and the parents hate the show - but their kids love it.’

So somehow, we scraped and scrounged, and if I remember, actually borrowed money, took money from other buckets like news and public affairs.

So I still, I'm still bothered by the great documentaries we DIDN’T get to do so that we had to fund second and beyond seasons of Barney, but as I say, I tried. But yeah, he is one resilient dinosaur.

Wendy Corr:

Oh my gosh, I guess he is. That is absolutely a riot. So you tried and failed to kill Barney, but you stayed with PBS for a while.

And then you ended up making your own production company, which you still have, Semel Produtions, correct? And you were able to do some really phenomenal work, just as a consultant, then, with Semel Productions.

And you have worked with amazing late night guys, Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. You've worked with the iconic news people that we know of, you did some work with Oprah network. Is that correct?

Mitch Semel:

Yes, yes. When she was launching the cable network after her show - actually we coincided with her show a bit when she was launching what became O.W.N., Oprah Winfrey Network.

The flagship show was with Gayle King, Gayle was already doing a radio show on Oprah's radio network. And when they started the cable network, they had the obvious idea, ‘Let's also put it on TV.’

But as you well know, adapting a radio show for TV is actually kind of complicated, technically and otherwise.

So yeah, you and I could do a whole separate conversation about the technical challenges of doing literally a simulcast for local radio, satellite radio and cable TV.

Wendy Corr:

That's exactly it. Yes. Yeah. So you worked with Oprah, you did some work with her. And then tell us how you also started - you and I talked a little bit about this before we got started today - Katie Couric, and some documentary stuff that you did with her.

Tell us about that. Because that's topical, as well. And, again, I think it goes to show how your work has kind of laid the ground floor for a lot of other things. Tell us about your work with Katie.

Mitch Semel:

So I met Katie, probably about 10 years ago, and she enjoys all this stuff that we're discussing.

Not only is she a really good journalist, obviously well known for the Today show, anchoring the CBS Evening News.

But she, like me, was very interested in what's coming next. She had already taken on an anchoring role with Yahoo News, when that was still a big online provider.

But we talked about that, the next opportunity I thought would be for her to have her own media company. 

So I do remember, it was funny, because she had all these wonderful names for the company that she had come up with with some friends and colleagues and her daughters.

And she showed me the list and I said, ‘Katie, I have to be honest, the best thing to call it is Katie Couric media,’ right?

And she said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, when I call somebody to get us a meeting, if I just say Katie Couric media, that's what gets us in the door.’ And she thought a minute and said, ‘Okay, you're right.’ So we called that the unimaginative, but effective, Katie Couric Media, which she still has to this day.

And we set about to figure out how she could take her storytelling sense and play it across all the media opportunities. 

So you know, if you remember back when, when there were things like Periscope as new platforms, new apps on which to do things like this - live, but with engaging comments.

You know, it was still vibrant as far as product development, app development, but all of those presented content opportunities, especially for a good storyteller, reporter, producer like her.

And so we did a lot of great stuff. Some of it, I'll call it social media driven. 

But one of the ones that had the most lasting impact is -  and this was all Katie's idea - what I'm about to say is going to sound funny, given the news of recent years, but about eight or so years ago, she said to me one day, ‘You know, I've been reading all these stories about gender, what it is, the science of it, the politics of it, different gender identities, et cetera, et cetera.’

And as a journalist, she was very interested. And so we started doing some research and ultimately realized there's a lot of there, there.

And we sold and produced for National Geographic, a two hour documentary called ‘The Gender Revolution,’ and it sort of summarized all the stuff that's been, you know, in the forefront of news now for a good number of years.

And it ran on the National Geographic Channel, it’s still available, we still get a lot of great feedback, it runs periodically on Hulu and Disney and, you know, the National Geographic cable channel and the streaming platforms and all that. 

And I'm happy to say, even though it's eight years old, it's still very timely. Yes, there's a lot of research, you know, and obviously, many more political and social stories. And without getting into that stuff, what is nice is that we were able to tackle compelling stories like that, using newer platforms, like streaming,  for instance.

Wendy Corr:

That kind of brings me to the topic that I want to use to wrap up. So, I want to jump back real quickly and talk about you as a person.

Mitch, you have been to Wyoming, obviously, you have the connections here, which is a wonderful thing. You frequent Jackson, and you get to come out here from time to time, but you have a wonderful home in Chappaqua, New York, you and your wife.

And tell us a little bit about your family as well, because we want to know who you are, as well,.You are all of these things, but you've also switched careers. And yes, you still have Semel Media, but you're a flight instructor. Tell us about your personal life, when you're not doing television.

Mitch Semel:

Sure, sure. So my wife's an elementary school teacher, has been for many years, also a children's book author, she writes nonfiction art books for kids.

We have three daughters, two of them are following her - one's already a preschool teacher, the other will soon be a kindergarten teacher. The middle one was an online COVID Contact tracer, and is now a little bit close to me business wise, in that she’s at a Digital Media Marketing Agency. 

And yes, as you say, I have this improbable second career as a flight instructor. I started as a hobbyist, got to use the flying every so often in television projects, if I could fly myself on location.

But what started as a hobby, quickly crowded out the main business. I still happily do some media things like Cowboy State Daily, mostly because I really enjoy it.

Especially when it's new and fresh and compelling as what you and your colleagues are doing. But yeah, more and more of my time I'm spending teaching people how to fly airplanes, which I absolutely love. 

Wendy Corr:

That is too fun. Oh, my goodness. And, you know, that actually brings me to another offshoot here. You mentioned HuffPost, and how you were instrumental in doing the digital video portion of HuffPost. You were general manager of The Onion. A

nd a lot of people might not know The Onion, they might have seen something online about The Onion, and look at the headlines and say, ‘That doesn't seem right.’ And that's because it's not. The Onion - tell us just real briefly about The Onion and how that started. 

Mitch Semel:

So The Onion is, I think it's fair to say, the nation's premier satirical news site. There's a whole other fun part of The Onion, which is the fictional side of it, which is a 400 year old news organization.

But that plays into it. But The Onion actually started in Madison, Wisconsin. And it started as kind of a parody of supermarket tabloids, you know, ‘Weekly World News’ kind of things.

It's evolved over time, where it's had at various points, more of a USA Today kind of voice, more of a New York Times voice. But one of the great things about it is, in the course of making fun of the news, the writers were great at seeing the changes in the actual news, and the way it was delivered. 

So The Onion, early on as this little free giveaway newspaper in about 20 cities, got book deals, started doing the earliest podcasts, started doing syndicated radio, started doing web videos.

Then when I was there, we did a couple of cable TV shows, we made while I was there - this was now about 15 years ago - we finally let go of the actual news print newspaper, just again, like Cowboy State Daily, became an all digital platform.

But, like Cowboy State Daily, we called ourselves happily a ‘newspaper,’ because everybody likes that phrase, even without the paper part. 

And it is still, you know, bigger and better than ever. They actually just have new owners who come, funny enough, out of the world of journalism, out of NBC News digital.

And the biggest problem, I think, The Onion has now, as a fan for life, is, you may have seen a proliferation of kind of, ‘not The Onion’ websites. Which is not trying to outdo it, but just pointing out, like, these stories are so crazy, they sound like they were made up by comedy writers. But sadly, they're not. 

Wendy Corr:

Sadly, yeah. And we get a few of those stories at Cowboy State Daily, because a few of those weird things happen here in Wyoming too - not as many as some of the other states. 

But still, Mitch, we've got to wrap up, which is sad, because there's so many more stories to tell.

But one of the things that I really want you to share with us, and share with the audience here, is where you think - you've been on the ground floor of the changes of all of these different formats, and these different mediums.

Where do you see news going? Where do you see television going in the future? Because you've been part of the transformation of the industry. And what do you, what are you looking at?

Mitch Semel:

So on on the TV side, I would say, I think it's going to be more, and even with more rapidity of change, of what we have seen the last couple of years.

For me - beyond the particulars of you know, I used to get cable, now I get streaming, that sort of thing - I think the great shift has been away from just the producers and the distributors of shows having all controlling the whole media universe, to now obviously consumers, we as viewers, have a lot to do - including, you know, when we watch a show, that's a huge thing, how we watch a show, on what device, when we watch a show. I think we're gonna see that accelerate as more devices and platforms get developed.

We're probably, in the immediate sense, in for a fair amount of consolidation. You're seeing - as happens typically, in most businesses - you're seeing it already in streaming, people are getting sick of paying seven different streaming subscriptions a month, we're seeing them either buy each other or make joint marketing agreements.

Oddly enough, we're going to wind up, probably, with these bills, where one day we'll go, ‘Isn't this the old cable bill that I used to pay?’

It's just going to be a streaming bill now, but that's okay. I think as long as the choice remains and the feeling of you know, I'm driving this way more than I used to when it had to be appointment television - if I like the show, you know, I had to sit down Thursday night at eight o'clock, because that's when they put it on. They, the network.

On the news side of things. And Wendy, I know this is gonna sound like I'm sucking up - I'm not. I really think the future of news is Cowboy State Daily.

By which I mean, a product made for a particular audience - in this case, seeing that the state of Wyoming didn't have adequate news coverage.

And taking advantage of the current landscape, which is - you know, we've talked about it, I refer to it, I love that you guys still refer to yourselves as a newspaper, even though there's no paper involved, right?

The idea of saying, we're going to start this as a web site, but we're going to make it available to everybody - you know, you can read it on your computer, on your tablet, on your phone. 

The fact that we're doing this over video - again, this would not have been associated with a newspaper, not that many years ago.

But the idea that Cowboy State Daily says, ‘Well, you know, there's an opportunity, people can listen to our stories (you do that in radio), people can watch our stories (you do that every day talking to reporters, adding more context, more color, more flavor), but it also means that as a reader/viewer, I get to choose you know, on a given day I can just pick up my phone, scan the website, read all the headlines, or know that I can watch your newscast ,embedded in the site or on YouTube. 

So again, that notion of your making it available to me, when I want, where I want, in the way that I want - and that didn't always exist, again, in the old world of journalism.

Newspaper journalism in particular was, you know, we put out the paper, whatever, in the old days, twice a day.

And that's when you get the news, right? Well, now it's, yes, you still have publication deadlines, mostly about when the reporters are finished and the editors determine the story's ready.

But once you've got it on there, you're making it easy for me, and people all across the state of Wyoming to find it, when, where and how they want it. And I think that it's a different kind of engagement with readers. In years past, it would have been only letters to the editor. Well, this now still exists, right?

In the form of emails and social media and things like that. But that recognition, that consumption has changed, how people get their news has changed.

I think people were stuck in the old model. They're already struggling, and probably are not going to stick around that much longer.

I'm not kidding when I say, I think that this model, whether applied to states like Wyoming, or to large metropolitan areas, or to - I'll call it, interest groups, people who have some commonality about the kind of news they like to read and find useful.

Wendy Corr:

Well, I don't know that there's a better pitch for Cowboy State Daily than right there. We need to figure out how to make that into an advertisement.

Mitch Semel:

Well, then we used our time well.

Wendy Corr:

We did. Yes, absolutely. Mitch, we are grateful at Cowboy State Daily for the expertise that you have brought to us, and the whole new world that you have opened, I know personally, for me, in how I look at what I do.

And I'm grateful for today's conversation, because today, it just kind of put everything in perspective for me. So thank you very much!

Mitch Semel:

You’re welcome. It's been great fun, as it's great fun working every day with you and your colleagues. 

Wendy Corr:

Well, we agree. And folks, I hope that you have enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at what network television was like, and the future of news, of television, of how we get our entertainment, how we get our information.

I just think this has been a fantastic conversation. So I hope that you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. Mitch, thank you for being part of our team. 

Mitch Semel:

You're welcome. Thank you. 

Wendy Corr:

You bet. And folks, tune in next week, we've got another fascinating guest that we will visit with next week.

We don't want you to miss an episode, you can go back to all of our previous Roundup episodes by going to our YouTube channel.

You can get it on any of your podcasting platforms, because we do this in video and in audio. But just join our family, because we're here for you. So thanks so much for tuning in, folks.

Thanks Mitch. Have a wonderful week.

Wendy Corr can be reached at

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Wendy Corr

Broadcast Media Director