Commentary By Curtis Symonds Things change, that’s a given. It’s been happening since – depending upon where you stand on such things – that fateful day when Adam first bit into the apple, or that fateful day when that fish first decided to take a stroll and see what life was like in the next pond. In other words, it’s not if or when things change that matters, since we all know change is going to occur regardless. The real issue is how things will change. Will they change for the better? And if not, then what? That’s what I’m contemplating as I write this. You see, it’s a beautiful morning in May and I’ve recently discovered that one of my favorite people in cable, Henry Schleiff of Court TV, will soon be leaving his job. As I sit here I find myself wondering what this industry will be like without him. Understand, this isn’t one of those moments in which yet another cable relic gets up and starts blowing smoke rings of memory and waxing nostalgic about the good old days. Seasons change. People leave. Plants and pets die, and rust never sleeps. I get all that. Believe me, I’m not ruing the pending departure of Henry on any emotional level. I’ve enjoyed knowing him, I hope we can stay in touch, and even now, I miss working with him on a regular basis. Plus, I’m delighted he’s left his fingerprints all over this industry. Instead, my concerns are for the rest of us. And to that end, I have a few questions for someone out there. Oh sure, I might go for the obvious and ask; who do the folks at Turner have who can replace Henry and the unique drive and vision he brought to Court TV? Or, I could follow that up with a second softball, such as: now that Henry’s career there is being consigned to history, who will sound the clarion anywhere and everywhere for Court, the way Henry once did? But I have to be honest, on this beautiful morning in May those aren’t the questions I want answers to. Not by a long shot. My questions are broader; a little more likely to be found on the essay portion of the test, rather than the front page. For example; who does Turner have who has the heart and soul of Henry Schleiff – who operates like he owns the network he’s running, not like someone simply managing a "media property?" Who will replace Henry as a champion of diversity – someone willing to stand up, not for what is politically expedient, but what is right? Who will replace his social conscience and his appreciation for the critical importance of community-based activity? And who will pay continual homage to the wisdom that taking your brand directly to the local marketplace, hand-in-hand with the local cable operator, is something more valuable than gold? Who’s going to deal with the media in an honest and open fashion, and speak frankly about things that actually matter? Who will carry the torch for the small cable operator, whose individualism and entrepreneurial spirit is as close as this industry has to a canary in its coal mine? And, more importantly, who will be there to help those same small operators remain viable; providing them something beyond tchotchkes, dinner and rhetoric? And if this person is out there in spirit, does he or she have the juice to actually matter, or are they just a cog in the larger media machine? And finally, who will, like Henry always did, inspire and motivate – not just those under at Court TV, but all of us, with strong words, bold actions, and compelling ideas? I don’t have the answer to any of those questions, at least not yet. All I know is that change is afoot at Court TV, the small operators are here lobbying Washington this week, and Symonds says – at least on this beautiful morning in May – that’s what’s on my mind. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com

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