Legacy broadcast business leaders announce retirements after 30+ years at WBRZ
BATON ROUGE - Staples of south Louisiana advertising and business circles will retire from WBRZ after spending more than three decades with WBRZ, the city’s only family-owned news station.
Jeff Smith, an account executive in WBRZ’s sales department, retired Thursday (March 31). As a leading salesman, Smith helped organize countless budding business’ stories into messages that resonated with television viewers. An LSU graduate, Smith started working at WBRZ in 1987 and leaves 29 days after his 35th anniversary - March 2. Before his career in television, Smith worked in sales management at a radio station in New Roads.
Shortly after Jeff Smith’s retirement this week, commercial production director Ed Ball will retire from his daily production assignments after more than 40 years at WBRZ.
Ball, who until the end of April, coordinated production schedules for businesses who advertised on WBRZ Channel 2, WBRZ Plus and WBTR. Ball would help produce commercials for businesses and would often shoot the video elements of the advertisement himself.
In his four-decade run at WBRZ, Ball has been involved in news and entertainment. In the last decade, Ball was the grit behind the successful St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway telecast. During numerous giveaways and telethons, Ball was behind the cameras seeing that all events went smooth. The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway raffle, underway now, will end later this Spring for the first time without Ball at the production helm.
Ball and Smith are part of a rare group of television executives and staffers - professionals who have spent their entire career at one broadcast operation. In a nomadic industry, it’s somewhat unusual to find broadcasters starting and ending long careers in the same place - but not at the Manship family’s WBRZ where many employees are decade-long staffers and some, like Smith and Ball, have been around “forever.”
“Ed Ball and Jeff Smith are truly family. For those of us who grew up here, there haven’t been times when we wouldn’t see Ed or Jeff around. It will be different without them, but I know they’ve helped us reach a point where we will be successful as they enjoy retirement,” Jake Manship, the family company’s COO said.
General Manager Rocky Daboval is among the long-tenured WBRZ employees. The trio, and others, helped rocket some of Baton Rouge’s most successful brands into popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s by selling and producing dynamic television ads.
“Not seeing Ed and Jeff every day won’t be the same,” Daboval said. “We’ve been together forever. I’m happy for them. Heck, I’m jealous of them, too,” he quipped.
“My first clients, the ones Jeff built and the ones Ed helped make household names will never forget their efforts to make anything work and business grow stronger,” Daboval added.
“We are a family. It’s bittersweet. Today is happy and sorrowful at the same time. WBRZ is a place where we can see our friends every day. These two friends won’t be here tomorrow,” company president, Richard Manship, said. “But they can’t get rid of us! We’ll still see them around somewhere.”
Operated as Manship Media, the Manship family owns WBRZ Channel 2, WBRZ Plus and WBTR TV in Baton Rouge and KRGV and its English and Spanish news operations in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. They are among a small group of families who still own local television broadcast operations.
In Baton Rouge, WBRZ programs the most amount of local news on WBRZ Channel 2 and WBRZ Plus.
Station managers are expecting to hire new employees as the two men retire.
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