WZZM President-GM Janet Mason To Retire
Tegna-owned ABC affiliate WZZM Grand Rapids, Mich. (DMA 49) said today that its president and general manager, Janet Mason, has announced her plans to retire this summer after 22 years at the station and 44 years in the broadcasting industry.
Mason was named WZZM president-GM in January 1997. She has spent more than 40 years with Gannett, now Tegna, in a variety of executive and on-air positions.
“When I began my Gannett journey at WTCN-WUSA-KARE in Minneapolis-St. Paul in January 1979, I didn’t know where that journey would take me or how long it would last,” said Mason. “It has been a wonderful and rewarding adventure.”
There were many firsts in Mason’s career. She was part of the first wave of women who became television newscasters in the 1970s. She became Gannett Broadcasting’s first woman and person of color news director in the 1980s and the first woman and person of color TV general manager in West Michigan in the 1990s.
Mason spent 17 years at KARE rising through the ranks from general assignment reporter to local Today Show news cut-in anchor to St. Paul bureau chief to assistant news director to the last eight years as vice president/news. She was part of the leadership team that took the station from fourth place to first.
In 1996, she was promoted to vice president/news at Gannett Broadcasting where she worked with station general managers and news directors to help improve their news programs.
A year later, she was named president-GM of WZZM. During her 22-year tenure at WZZM she significantly expanded the number of hours devoted to news, created the 13 Watchdog Investigative Team, provided in-depth coverage of many significant events, ushered West Michigan into the digital age of journalism and high-definition television, and built a legacy of community involvement.
“As caring people, you have rallied our viewers to truly make a positive difference in West Michigan,” said Mason to her staff. “It’s been a true joy working beside you collecting toys for needy children, saving lives through our breast cancer and safe driving campaigns, collecting water for Flint and tons of food for the hungry, and countless other community projects”.
A favorite project was rescuing a West Michigan and Grand Rapids icon, the Weatherball, from a scrapyard and bringing it back to its glory. The 13 Weatherball is a stainless-steel sphere that is 16 feet in diameter, wrapped in 288 neon lights, and sits on top of a 100 feet pole. The ball changes colors to represent the next day’s weather.
She plans to stay with the station until mid-July, so there is a smooth transition for her successor.
Before Gannett/Tegna, Mason worked for television stations in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Over the years, Mason has served on a variety of industry and community boards, including the ABC Television Affiliates Association, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Club of Grand Rapids. She has been a guest instructor for the National Association of Broadcasters Management Development Seminar for TV Executives and University of Missouri / RTNDA News Executive Seminar.
Mason has received multiple honors over the years, including the Silver Circle from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – Michigan Chapter, Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and Certificate of Commendation from the Governor of Minnesota for her work on diversity issues.