Local News Archive
Print Issue: May 1, 1980
Turner's Man Terry
By Monsignor Noel Burtenshaw
You could call him Ted Turners top project promoter and confidential inside executive.
Dont do that says six foot three Terry McGuirk call me a trusted lieutenant.
Whatever you decide to call this right hand of Turner Communications youll find him on the side of the doings of Mr. Ted.
Right now, Terence McGuirk, 28 and growing, sits on the edge of the most exciting project in the expanding art of the television camera since Super Station-Channel 17 was born. And he attended that birth too.
I came on board with Ted Turner in 1973 straight out of college, says the bachelor redhead in fact my Dad and I passed each other on the road. He, another Terry, was leaving Channel 5 for Albany, New York and I was headed for the sunny south. Channel 17 was just coming alive.
Well, 17 is alive and doing fine. It now penetrates 8 million homes. The Cable News Network is next. June 1, 1980 will see the beginnings of an era which has grown from the wild, but wonderfully working, ideas of Ted Turner.
Cable News Network (CNN) will be an around the clock, 24 hours news service. The kernel will be a two hour prime time newscast beginning at 8:00 p.m. But for the first time the nation will have an all-news TV network.
Cronkite and Company, says McGuirk give you the worlds happenings, once each day in 24 minutes. We say theres more, lots more.
Where did the idea for Cable News Network originate. Turner of course, says the smiling Cathedral parishioner. Ted conceived the Super Station idea, not strictly from research, but rather from a seat of the pants decision. CNN has been something similar.
Ted Turner sees the media of television line up in this order. Number one is sports. Then comes movies, next the Archie Bunker type sit-coms and finally news. Channel 17 gives us the first three, says Terry now we are going after the last.
Will it work? Will people buy into the cable for the all-news station? Terry McGuirk has the answer. The pros think so. Daniel Schorr is on board and he is a respected veteran. Anchor people from 20 markets have signed with us. Ralph Nader will do a daily piece, so will Barry Goldwater, William Simon, and Dr. Joyce Brothers. The pros like the idea, it will work.
It better. The start up costs for this the 5th network (McGuirk says the current Channel 17 is the 4th) is 50 million dollars and when it starts operations in June the bill will be 2 million a month.
The figures are most believable when you see the rising Turner conglomeration in mid-town Atlanta. The old Standard Club with its adjoining 22 acres was purchased, gutted and expertly carved into the nations most up to date network studio. Like a giant Disney space condominium, with glass walls and blinking gadgets the 90,000 square feet are reaching for a completion date of early summer.
The army of trained experts will move in, says Terry in anticipation and we cant wait. This will really be a center of communications. Large hotels want to locate close to us and news people from round the nation are visiting to look. Its happening here in Atlanta.
You look and you readily believe this lieutenant of the terrible Ted.
The figures are frightening, but not to Terry. Listen, he smiles, we will start with 3 ½ million cable homes, who knows what it will be in a year. Cable News Network is bringing hope to the industry. Besides we have already seven sales people on the road.
Will the new venture be quality TV? The answer is fired at you in a returning question. Is TV quality now? Ted Turner is a great humanist. To him life is a game to be played and enjoyed. And the marvelous thing is he wants those who work for him to enjoy it too. And so he gets the best from his people. He gets quality.
It will be tough going financially for a few years and Terry McGuirk knows it. When we started Channel 17 and were out on the road selling we used to say we would sell time for a dollar-a-holler. Now it pays, it steams along. Sure it will be tough.
The big executive is excited that its all happening right here in Atlanta. Our center for news will be New York, Washington, and Atlanta, well be up there with the biggies, says Terry.
Turners man Terry is in Atlanta to stay. Out of New York he came. It was Catholic education for him all the way. One of seven children, he attended high school at plush Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island whose most famous alumnus was Senator Robert F. Kennedy. During college he worked a summer for Ted Turner in Atlanta. The lieutenant was commissioned and the bright career of Terence McGuirk began.
Now with both hands on the wheel, at 28, he is helping to launch a television network in Atlanta.
When thats done, the marvelous maverick Robert Edward (Ted) Turner will give birth to another wildly successful idea and Terry McGuirk, the trusted lieutenant, will begin pulling all together once more.