It is not often we meet someone who truly makes a difference in the lives of others, but Carl Bilek is one of those people. He started on the desk when he was barely 20. His giggle was infectious; his work ethic contagious. Beginning as an intern, Carl inhaled every job description assigned to him at KWGN from 1989 to 2008: part time writer, full time associate producer, weekend producer, weekday producer, executive producer, assistant news director, and finally, news director.
His skill sets in television news grew rapidly. Strong on both the content and production sides, Carl could switch on a dime and give you nine cents change. He was the most consistent performer in the newsroom every day, with every job assigned to him. The consummate team player, the teacher, the glue. Carl made everyone on the team, both in the newsroom and in the studio, feel their jobs were essential to the success of the project at hand.
Watching Carl interact with reporters to bring out their best work was the best show in the newsroom. He worked with reporters, novice and seasoned professionals, helping them craft sometimes challenging assignments into well thought out stories. Occasionally this was as simple as encouraging them to call someone else for information that could help them delve deeper into the story. Other times he would blow up their scripts and help them rebuild their packages from scratch. The reporters didn’t mind, because Carl always did it with a smile and explained why he was doing it in a way that was never condescending.
Carl took the time to make certain the person he was working with knew he wasn’t just changing their script for the sake of change. He used every opportunity as a teaching moment and the product was always better on that night and subsequent nights. While each story in a newscast stands out on its own, Carl was directing the story the newscast would tell as a whole; and the best way to do that was to start with the initial story selection.
Leading the news gathering operation at KMGH beginning in 2008, Carl become the nexus point in the newsroom. People gravitated to him. Journalists sought his guidance, direction, sensibilities and compassion. Carl’s innate ability to see the world as a positive place and instinctively put things in perspective gave life and force to the newsroom. As a news leader, Carl guided the reporting and editorial spirit. Under his direction, KMGH won numerous awards and distinctions. He was fair and thoughtful. Appropriately skeptical. Inquisitive and curious. And always understood and embraced the importance of our role in the community and the democracy.
Carl’s sense of dedication to family is always forefront. His oldest son fondly remembers car trips with Dad joyfully singing along to the newest song from Disney Channel. Taking an active role in the lives of five children, helping lug a tuba to and from band class, taking the girls to ballet, helping with homework, his perseverance feels like an overflowing pot of love and pride for his children.
Carl has served his community and the television industry with honor throughout his career. In addition, his service to the Heartland Chapter of NATAS and the National Board of Trustees has been exemplary. The level of respect that Carl has earned from his colleagues is a testament to not only the kind of professional Carl is, but the kind of representative the television industry has in Carl.
It is how someone acts when the chips are down that you find who they really are. Carl has proven to colleagues both inside television stations and within NATAS that he can be relied upon for steady guidance and strong moral fiber, even in the most difficult of times.
Currently, as National Director of Content for Scripps, Carl steers daily national news coverage for more than a dozen television stations. In 2016 Carl also led Scripps coverage of two political conventions, several Presidential debates, the 2016 Presidential election and the inauguration. His presence and leadership brought balance, credibility and organization to those important moments in television. While leading the team, he is also a mentor to reporters and photographers. With his decades of experience, Carl coaches the reporters to become better storytellers and to always focus on facts and accuracy. On a daily basis, with each reporter he coaches, Carl continues to raise the standard of our industry.