The first time I met Bill Carey was in 1997 while waiting for a verdict outside the Onondaga County Courthouse. I don’t remember the story, but I do remember the moment. He was a well-respected, seasoned Channel 9 reporter, and I was a cub anchor/reporter for Channel 5, humbly about five seconds into my new morning show job.
It was a sticky fall morning when Bill showed up with a lazy tie, rolled up sleeves and cigarette in hand. He was thinner than I expected, and probably would have found it ridiculous that I was impressed by his thick, wavy hair. His signature voice was gritty, commanding, and confident.
He didn’t say much to me, which was good, because anything I would have said back would have been dumb. And, as a grasshopper, I didn’t disappoint.
“Hello, Mr. Carey,” I said.
“Bill, please,” he replied.
“Yes, sir,” I responded like an idiot. ‘Sir?’
Intimidated, I jotted down every thought in my head so I’d have enough material to fill my live hits and so he’d think I was paying attention. It didn’t take long to realize my predictive questions were no match for his proficiencies. His conversational style was unencumbered by pen and paper. Live hits are often best unscripted – facts often change – so it’s a good idea to never get completely committed to copy or a story you already wrote in your head.
Something he obviously knew and I was oblivious.
I committed. The story changed. I fumbled.
I couldn’t see Bill, but I could hear his signature voice in the distance. He was confident, flexible, flawless, and experienced. Over the next decade, after some big stories under my belt, I spent many hours alongside that signature voice. Bill’s knack for telling stories made it look easy, when in reality, it takes years to tell the right story, connect with the right people, ask the right questions and put it all together cohesively and quickly under pressured deadlines.
No one in Central New York, then or now, cared as much, or told a story as good, as Bill Carey. He was a gentle giant with a “just the facts ma’am” style. He was your worst and best competition. Worst, because he’d kick a** on ANY story. Best, because by his very skill and nature, he made you WANT to be better.
He could make grass growing, interesting.
He could make paint drying a lead story.
And if politics or election night was on the board, forget it.
You might as well take a seat.
Bill Carey was untouchable.
He was that good.
Any reporter who had the honor of standing in reporter row alongside Bill, learned.
You couldn’t not learn from him.
Bill would not approve of my grammar in that last sentence.
He was a man of few words in the field.
He was a man of the right words in the field.
If he said it, it was fact.
And if you got a smile, a hello, and a question along the way, it was a sign of respect.
And it was enough.
Central New York has lost its signature voice, its lead storyteller. A man who loved his family and community and honored the stories that poured from every corner. And if you think that doesn’t matter, it does.
Like Ron Curtis, Bill was a trench coat journalist. He was an iconic gift to Central New York because he stayed on the front line where bright lights don’t often shine.
Above all else, Bill Carey was fair and the best interviewer, bar most. Every question had purpose. If he didn’t get the facts he needed from one angle, he’d flawlessly slide in from another angle.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a person you thought would always be around.
We say goodbye to a style that only he could bring. We say goodbye to decades of integrity, knowledge, and experience. We say goodbye to a big piece of broadcasting excellence colleagues and viewers were privileged to know only because Bill chose not to leave for brighter lights and bigger paychecks. He’s a void that cannot be filled.
Perhaps his greatest gift, as an Emmy and Murrow award winner with 40-plus years covering stories, was setting the standard for every reporter who stood in reporter row alongside him. So in a way, his excellence is ubiquitous.
I don’t know where you go when it’s your turn to go, but I want to believe there’s a corner for news people in the Heavens…and while their mics are down, I want to believe Bill Carey, Andy Brigham, Joe Galuski, Ron Curtis, Sheryl Nathans, and Donna Speez are having a few brews sharing stories that matter. Intro. Pkg. Tag.
Goodbye, Mr. Carey. RIP Bill. You will be so missed.