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Experience at Ohio University and WOUB helped prepare Eric Land for career in television management

Published: April 13, 2022 Author: Cheri Russo

When Eric Land came to Ohio University as a student in 1969, he already had a great deal of experience in broadcast radio and television. Land grew up in Zanesville, Ohio and his dad was the general manager at WHIZ TV. He knew that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and he also knew that WOUB was the place to gain the additional knowledge he needed to do just that.

“I started working at WHIZ sweeping the floors and cleaning the weather board when I was 13 years old for 50 cents an hour,” said Land. “Then as I got older, I worked as a part-timer during the summers and Christmas breaks. So, when it came time to go away to college, I knew I wanted to follow a broadcasting career and that Ohio University was the place to do that.”

Land applied for and received a scholarship which paid full tuition and that helped him to be able to spend a lot of time volunteering at WOUB. Land worked as a reporter for both radio and television, learning all he could about the on-air side of broadcast news. During Land’s last couple of years at Ohio University, he worked on WOUB TV’s NewsWatch as both a weather and news anchor.

“I knew I wanted to run a TV station at some point and be like my father and follow in his footsteps. The work I did at WOUB was more in line with anchoring and reporting, and I loved that,” said Land. “I shared an office with the student news director, Henry Heilbrunn. We coached each other into being student managers of that newsroom.”

The two worked on a project called Buckeye Sound which was a partnership with the Associated Press (AP). It allowed WOUB to serve as a hub for news gathering for state radio stations and supply interviews to AP stations.

“The professional staff members in the newsroom were just great. We got great training and great opportunities. I had the chance to anchor the first remote color newscast from the statehouse when we did election coverage there in the fall of 1972,” said Land. “I got to cover the rioting that occurred on the Ohio University campus in connection with the Kent State shooting. I also got a chance to cover the Marshall football team plane crash story when then-Ohio University President Claude Sowle invited me to fly with him and cover the memorial held for those who died in November of 1970.”

Land also covered the Buffalo Creek flood disaster in Man, West Virginia in February of 1972. The Pittston Coal Company's coal slurry impoundment dam broke, killing 125 people and leaving thousands homeless. Four days before the disaster, the dam had been declared "satisfactory" by federal inspectors.

“The flood came without warning,” said Land. “I was the second reporter on the scene. We went back a year later and did a documentary that was nominated for an Emmy.”

Land’s experience at WHIZ and WOUB helped get him an internship at WCPO in Cincinnati the summer before his senior year. At the end of the internship, WCPO asked him to come back for a full-time position when he graduated.

“I knew I had a job as a reporter in Cincinnati when I graduated,” said Land. “That was wonderful. I started there right after graduation in June of 1973.”

But it wasn’t long before Land’s career took a turn, one that put him on the path to following in his father’s footsteps.

“The manager at WCPO called me into his office one day and said he knew I wanted to run a TV station and the only way to do that was to learn about the sales department. He went on to say there was someone retiring in sales, and he wanted me to move from news to sales. And that was the end of my on-air career.”

Land is currently the vice president and general manager of WBMA-TV (ABC), WTTO-TV (CW) and WABM-TV (MNT) in the Birmingham-Anniston-Tuscaloosa, AL market. He was also president and general manager of WTLV-TV (NBC) and WJXX-TV (ABC) in Jacksonville, FL from 2012 to 2014.  From 2009 to 2012, he was the president and chief executive officer of Walkabout Air Aviation in Tampa, FL and from 2006 to 2007, he was the chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and consulted for the team for an additional three years. Prior to that he held various management and sales positions, including the position of general manager for television stations in Tampa, FL (WFLA-TV), Birmingham, AL (WIAT-TV), Buffalo, NY (WGRZ-TV), and Flint/Saginaw, MI.

“My wife, Cindy (Brok) Land, and I have moved 13 times to further my career,” said Land. “I couldn’t have done it without her.” Cindy Land is also a 1973 Ohio University graduate, who double majored in elementary and special education and graduated cum laude. She recently retired from teaching. 

Eric Land was recently honored by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Southeast Chapter as an inductee for the 2020 and 2021 Gold Circle. The Gold Circle is a society of honor that recognizes careers dedicated to the advancement of the television and digital media industry. The Gold Circle is a distinction reserved for those who have dedicated 50 or more years pioneering, advancing, and serving the industry and the public.

Land credits his successful career to the wonderful experiences he had at Ohio University and has established a scholarship in honor of his parents to pay it forward. The Allan Land Award was established in 1976 and his mother’s name, June, was added to the name of the scholarship when she passed away in 2004.

“I am where I am today because of the hands-on experience I got at WOUB in college at Ohio University. I think the fact that the university set up a program at WOUB that has student involvement with professional supervision created a one in a million opportunity for all of us who took advantage of it. We had the chance to learn the ins and outs of what it took to put newscasts on the air for both radio and television. It’s where we really learned how to write, edit, produce, direct, light and all the other production elements that go into putting a newscast on the air. There were no creative limits, just journalistic guidance.”

To learn more about WOUB, visit woub.org.