President/General Manager NBC 5/WMAQ-TV
Executive Vice President Station Initiatives, NBC-owned stations
“Be curious. Go out of your way and take the initiative to ask questions. It will serve you well,” is advice Larry Wert gives his three grown daughters and son, who’s a senior at Mr. Wert’s alma mater, Fenwick High School. “We also talk a lot about communication. In today’s world, authentic, genuine relationships have tremendous value, especially in an environment where communication is too often about pressing the send button.”
Talking to the man who groomed Robin Meade, Paula Faris, Zoraida Sambolin, Ginger Zee and others for national stardom, there’s a sense that today he’s an explorer and a navigator. Mr. Wert’s corner office is filled with multiple televisions, computer screens and other devices, and his own curious nature is committed to uncovering the future of local television. “Consumers are moving much faster than we are by accessing all available programming via phones, tablets, computers and so forth,” he observes.
While Mr. Wert is focused on the future, he can’t forget how far women have come in the traditionally male-dominated broadcasting business. “This is my 33rd year, and I’ve seen several iterations of workforces,” he reflects. “My first sales job was in Los Angeles; we had 12 men and one woman. Regis Philbin was the station’s morning show host; he’d come into the office and, as only Regis could, exclaim, ‘Where are the girls? It’s like a bachelor party in here!’ Today, I find the talent pool has become more female. Women often bring a different drive, initiative, empathy and a more controlled ego. A woman leads our head of operations, which is historically a male-dominated area. When I hired her, it was controversial. She’s always out-delivered expectations.”
Mr. Wert and his team are working on The Steve Harvey Show, a new national daytime talk show debuting this month, produced in Chicago at NBC Tower. Explaining the show’s concept, he referenced a long list of successful daytime programming he’s helped launch, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “We put Ellen on air when she wasn’t completely out of the closet,” he reveals.
Looking back, Mr. Wert hopes his legacy will show that he has helped people compete, grow and have fun while staying true to Chicago. “You have to take the time to get to know the people and way of life here. No matter your business, you won’t be successful here unless you respect and employ Chicago traits and traditions.”