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'Scuse me while I disappear | Pat Callaghan announces retirement after 43 years

Pat Callaghan announces retirement after 43 years with NEWS CENTER Maine. His final newscast will be on Dec. 9, 2022.

PORTLAND, Maine — When Frank Sinatra retired in 1971, he went out in dramatic style. His closing number was "Angel Eyes," a saloon song written by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent.

As Sinatra sang the final line, "'scuse me while I disappear," the spotlight dimmed and went out, and Frank was gone. Perfect.

My disappearance will be far less dramatic. But after reporting and anchoring for WLBZ/WCSH/6-Alive/NEWS CENTER Maine for 43 years, it is time for me to call it a day.

In late 1979, I made just my second-ever drive to Portland, Maine. (The first was to see an Electric Light Orchestra show at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Worth the drive!).

I was living in Portsmouth, working at New Hampshire Public Television, and looking to take the next step in a career that I imagined would keep me moving around. I thought Portland looked pretty promising, and I felt I could fit in with what I saw on NewsCenter 6. So I sent a tape to WCSH, where News Director Fred Nutter liked what he saw and invited me up for an interview.

Not long afterward, Fred informed me that the company's vice president, the sage Bruce McGorrill, quite correctly thought I needed more seasoning.

So Fred said they were "kicking the tape up to our little baling wire operation in Bangor." That expression didn't exactly fill me with optimism, but I pointed my car north on I-95. I don't want to say that the place is isolated, but we used to occasionally refer to it as "Ice Station Zebra."

What I quickly came to appreciate was what a splendid opportunity I had been given to live in a fine community and learn from the team then in place at WLBZ2. You've heard of at least a couple of them: Bill Green and Don Carrigan. They welcomed me and mentored me, and showed me how covering news in Maine should be done. Get that 16mm film camera on your shoulder and get out there!

Three years later, I moved to WCSH6 in Portland, reporting on weekdays and producing and anchoring the weekend newscasts, something I did for the next six years. It was an exciting time of growth at the old Maine Broadcasting System, in the days when the owners were "in the store," willing to give us the support we needed to produce what we knew could be the best TV newscasts in Maine.

By 1986, the 6 p.m. newscast on WCSH was ranked No. 1, and we've never looked back -- and never taken that for granted. We succeed when we give the people of Maine the stories they want to see and the ones they need to see.

We also succeed because of a commitment to public service. From the day Channel 6 signed on in 1953, the owners, the Rines-Thompson family, understood that in exchange for being granted the right to profit from using the public airwaves, we had a responsibility to provide information through our newscasts and support for important community needs. 

You may recall some of the public service projects over the years -- the annual Sidewalk Art Festival, the Maine State Parade, the "World's Largest Garage Sale," and more. When the Maine Broadcasting System was sold to Gannett (now TEGNA) in the late 1990s, that spirit of public service continued.

I'm proud of the many community projects we have been able to organize and participate in: Coats for Kids, Project Heat, Feed Maine, and Honor Flight. And the credit really belongs to you, the generous people of Maine who always step up to make sure children have warm clothing for winter, oil for their furnaces, and food year-round, and show respect and gratitude for the service members who risked their lives for this country.

In the summer of 1989, I joined the weeknight anchor team with a couple of local legends, Bruce Glasier on sports and meteorologist Joe Cupo. Jan Fox was my co-anchor at the start, then in January 1990, Cindy Williams joined the evening team. The four of us were together on that news desk for 22 years, likely the longest-running four-person team you'll ever see in Maine. 

Cindy and I logged 32 years together until her retirement a year ago when Amanda Hill stepped up and seamlessly transitioned to the anchor desk. Never let it be said that I don't keep good company.

One thing I have learned in more than 40 years at this work is that it is a privilege to share peoples' stories and get paid to do it. The job has taken me from coast to coast and beyond, from the Challenger disaster to national political conventions, to Northern Ireland to watch a Mainer negotiate peace. I've encountered some of the world's most famous people, from presidents to Paul McCartney to Muhammad Ali.

While those sorts of milestones tend to stand out in memory, what endures are the countless stories that are told day in and day out through the decades, as a century died and a century was born.

Maine is full of remarkable people who care about their neighbors and work to improve their communities lives. Through sadness and celebration, triumph and tragedy, you have allowed me to be a part of your lives each day. You have let me know when I've done well and when I deserved brickbats. I thank you all for your trust and your support.

Those of us who are on camera get the attention, but none of it would be possible if not for the engineers who keep us beaming the news out to you, the sales staff who keep the lights on, the directors who call the shots you see, and the newscast producers who stack the shows and make us look good. All of those people epitomize grace under pressure. I'm terribly grateful to them and will always cherish their friendship.

So, what will I do after walking out of doors at One Congress Square? For a while, I'll learn to live without the adrenaline rush that fuels most journalists and see what it's like not to feel like I'm always behind schedule—lots more time for traveling, too, and learning some new things.
Some people take sabbaticals for that, but it doesn't really work in this job.
And I will certainly stay home when the police and the people on TV tell us to keep off the roads during a snowstorm. I've always wondered what that was like.

As for Frank Sinatra's dramatic retirement? Well, it didn't last, and ol' Blue Eyes returned for another lengthy chapter in his career.
So, who knows? Maybe we'll see each other again somewhere.

But for now, "Pardon me, 'cause I've gotta run ... 'scuse me while I disappear."

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