Everybody seems to have a different idea of what the truth is these days. And those of us trying to maintain the old standards are being totally drowned out by the whole sensationalist media mongers who naturally get more attention just because they're loud.
Hello, it's Tony Howell, digital strategist for artists, and thank you for listening to my podcast. In this episode, I am so excited to share a conversation with Emmy award-winning journalist and Emmy award-winning theater critic Roma Torre.
In addition to seeing shifts in New York City, as well as the commercial Broadway theatre landscape, Roma is thriving in the shift from traditional media, such as newspapers and television, to new media, like social media and podcasting.
As you'll soon hear, she's in the midst of an age and gender discrimination lawsuit, fighting for equality in the workplace. So this is a very important conversation, and I really think you're going to love this episode as well as this woman, this movement, and this changemaker, who you are going to want to follow. I do have some exciting news to share, but I will save that for the very end.
Without further ado, Rome Torre.
Roma, thank you so much for joining me. It's so good to hear from you and see you.
Yeah, I love you, Tony. You've been such a wonderful help to me and a terrific friend, so it was an absolute pleasure and a labor of love to sit here and spend about an hour with you, so fire away.
Well, I am so excited to pick your brain if you will. I know that you have so much to share. So I want to dive in. People know you as the face of New York City, the face of New York One. You've just spent 27 years there, and I know that you've also been working in the industry for three decades, so you've seen New York City through many iterations. Just to start off. I just think it'd be interesting. What's different about New York City in 2019, 2020, and what will always stay the same?
Well, we have certainly undergone a tremendous transformation in the last 27 years since I started in New York One. There are pros and cons obviously. The city has certainly become easier to live in. It's much safer obviously and cleaner, but in many respects it's also more sanitized and some people really don't appreciate that. When we started on the air in New York City, I could liken it to a Martin Scorsese movie, very gritty, and it was cynical in many respects. But today we're far more “sober-minded rom-com in the city,” with the Disney incursion. It's a safer, happier town, but a lot of people, I think, are missing the grit and the toughness that used to embody what it was to be in New York City.
In terms of television, technology has taken over the world. We have all the state of the art equipment. We can broadcast on a dime. We are shooting stories on our cell phones now. When I started, they used to pay for us to go get our backs cracked because we were all in such agony with those heavy cameras on our shoulders. Of course we do have very sophisticated cameras, but we don't necessarily need them anymore. So in that respect, it's much easier to broadcast, but the challenges can be greater as well, considering that we really have to be on our toes because there is no time to sit and filter the information that's coming at us.
We just have to think very quickly and get it on the air as fast as we can. So there are, as I said, pros and cons with the technology and the advancements in the last 27 years. But for the most part, I'd say it's all for the better.
I agree. I think everything evolves and sometimes there are pros and cons to both sides. So I know that you are the theatre critic, you write amazing theatrical reviews that everyone loves and treasures. And interestingly, you've seen 3,000 shows or more.
So 20 seasons of Broadway. What's your prediction for Broadway 2020?
I cannot make predictions because I always get them wrong and it's embarrassing that I'm supposed to be an expert and I fail miserably, but I can tell you, I did win the New York One office poolfor the Tony Awards this year. I had the most correct predictions of all the winners. I mean, obviously I've seen every show, so I have an advantage there. I have the edge, but still, I'm competing with a theatre unit that covers just as many shows as I do. But don't ask me to make predictions because it will always hit me in the ass later on when people find out I wasn't even close.
Let's go there with what are some misconceptions about being a theater critic?
Misconceptions? Well, that's very funny. I think part of the problem with being a theater critic is people resent the fact that we're know-it-alls and that our opinions are the end all, that's absolutely not true. We're all different and we all come at this business from different perspectives, but as far as I'm concerned I really do try to assess and judge each show based on its success in terms of fulfilling its intent. And I think a lot of critics maybe might be a little too harsh with a number of the shows that they are reviewing. That's not the way I roll. So when you say, what are some of the misconceptions about critics? I don't know, I think there are good critics and there are bad critics.
There are some critics who just want to be quoted, and then there are some critics who want to trash every show that they see, and I don't roll that way. So that's a tough question to answer because I love the theater and I know a lot of critics are burnt out. You've seen it in their writing. For me every time the curtain is coming up, the lights go down, the curtain comes up, it's like tabula rasa. For me, it's like seeing a show for the very first time in my whole life.
And so with that, you have also seen the rise that everyone's a critic, that everyone has the power to share their opinion positive or negative about the show. So how has the digital age affected the business of theatre criticism?
It's watered it down and it's made us less effective, and I regret that terribly. Everybody's a critic and everybody has some very strong opinions. But I think there is an argument to be made for those of us who have seen a lot of shows and are much better equipped to judge the merit of a show based on a particular standard that has evolved and that we have developed over many, many years of theatre viewing.
Sadly, everybody seems to think their opinion is equal to everybody else, and I'm on my feet when it comes to that. I'm a snob obviously. It's funny, I used to talk to people outside the theater and they would say things like, “Oh, it's the best show ever.” And then I would say, “Well, how many shows have you seen?” And they would say, “Well, three.”
So you really do have to assess the background of a person and the history that they've had with professional theater in order to determine whether their opinion really has any merit at all? But sadly, there's no way to know that, so I think people have to be more judicious about choosing who they want to hear a review from. I really hope that there will always be a place and a slot for critics who have a knowledge base of the theater, that the regular rank and file viewer, audience member obviously doesn't have.
And I know that's only a small part of your day to day life. So let's go take a look at the journalism side. And what are misconceptions about being a news anchor? What would people be surprised to know?
First of all, it's impossible to generalize because we're in a very difficult time in broadcast journalism. News casting is, I have to say, polluted with opinions and the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite should be rolling over in their graves with what has transpired in the news business. When Trump started that nasty crusade against what he calls fake news and the whole notion of alternate facts, he was railing against the mainstream media, which was pretty much the opposite of fake news essentially. While Fox News, that model is as fake as it gets, and so it was very frustrating to me to be in a business where there were all these so-called news people who were just fomenting opinions with no basis of fact or reality.
And it just seems so outrageous to me, but facts today have tragically turned into the equivalent of mercury. It's impossible to convince people that a real fact is concrete, and is unimpeachable. Everybody seems to have a different idea of what the truth is these days, and those of us trying to maintain the old standards are being totally drowned out by the old sensationalist media mongers who naturally get more attention just because they're loud. The news business should be, and I know this sounds anathema to the whole notion of the fact that news is a business, but news should be boring essentially. If we do it right, like CSPAN, you want the facts and you want to allow people the opportunity to make their own judgements based on just the very basic facts.
And we don't have that anymore. So we are being led by the nose, by people who have an agenda, sad to say, and it should never be that way, but it is. So misconceptions about news anchors, we're all very different people. And I really hope that TV watchers, TV news viewers understand that they have to be very, very conservative about how they choose or who they choose to listen to in the news business, because there really is no regulation, and as my mom used to say, there are no rules essentially pertaining to who gets to be a newscaster, and especially today. You don't need a license, there's no certification at all. You don't have to pass a test, so anybody can get on there and especially now with the incursion of social media, anybody with a microphone can get on there and just blast away, say whatever they feel.
It's very difficult for people to decide who's telling the truth and who's not, and that is very disturbing to me. Now that the trend has really sort of taken hold, I don't know if we'll ever go back to any kind of journalism where you can trust the news person who's behind the camera or in front of the camera. You can't, you really can't. I'm really kind of depressed over the state of journalism today. It's not very encouraging to see how it has transpired.
I would agree with all that, and I think there's an interesting parallel there between theater reviews and delivering the news and everyone sharing their own opinions. What I want to ask you, you mentioned, and let's highlight this. Can you tell us a little bit about your mom and how she influenced you?
Well, sure. My mom was my role model, my hero, my idol. She was just the most wonderful human being on earth, and I miss her terribly, even though she passed away. Oh gosh, about 22 years ago. My mom was an Italian woman, both her parents came from Italy and [she was a] very traditional Brooklyn raised girl. She was supposed to be a bookkeeper because back in the day, that's what women did, but she had this wonderful journalism teacher in high school who was considered the meanest teacher at Lafayette High School. I think it was in Brooklyn. He encouraged her to go into the field of journalism, and so she worked really hard, and you can imagine back in the day, women, she was only 18 years old at the time, were not welcome in the news business and she wanted to be a print reporter.
And so she pounded the pavement after she graduated and couldn't get a job, and she finally decided to get a little deceptive. She walked into the World-Telegram & Sun, which was a newspaper at that time, the 1940s. And she told the secretary of one of the editors there that she had an appointment to interview him for Who's Who in America. And the secretary said, “Well, I don't have anything written in here.” And mom said, “Well, there must be a mistake. If you could just tell him I'm here. It won't take me very long.” All she needed to do was get in to see him, and so the secretary said, “Well, okay.” And she let my mom in. And my mom was just so nervous, 18 years old. And it turned out that the news editor was Italian. He recognized her name, she was Italian and he took pity on her and he said, “You obviously don't work for Who's Who in America.”
And she just burst into tears. And he said, “All right, all right, I've never done this before, but I'm going to get you the job of a copy girl.” And he said, “We don't have copy girls. We only have copy boys.” But he said, “I'll make an exception in your case.” So they allowed her, it was an entry level position and she very quickly established herself as a major talent in the newsroom. So she climbed her way up very quickly, and she became the secretary to the amusements editor who turned out to be a lush. He was chronically absent, and one day he just never returned.
And so my mom being his assistant kind of knew the lay of the land, and so they gave her the job without the money or the title, and they wouldn't even give her the opening night tickets that he had, somebody else would take them. So my mom had to pay for tickets to see the Broadway shows that she was covering, believe it or not. That lasted a very long time, and then finally, she just got kind of frustrated that she was doing the work of the editor, but not getting the recognition or the glory.
And so she ended up going to another newspaper, The Herald Tribune, and they did give her the job that she deserved, and so she continued to be the amusements editor and her claim to fame is that in the 1950s, 1957, she had a regular column that was syndicated all over the country in hundreds of papers and her columns, they were not gossip. They were amusements, entertainment columns about the movie stars of the day. And she ended up writing a story about Judy Garland quoting an unnamed source that Judy was giving CBS some trouble about a concert that she was supposed to perform at the Palace Theater in New York, and that she was backing out of the contract.
So my mom quoted the unnamed source at CBS. She asked Judy Garland if she could comment and Judy's husband was her manager. And he said, “No comment.” The item ran. And my mom lo and behold, got sued by Judy Garland for libel, for quoting this unnamed source. My mom was tried in court, ordered to name the source, and my mom said, “I'm a journalist, there's a principle to uphold.” And she said “I will not reveal the source.” And it went all the way up to the Supreme Court believe it or not. The Supreme Court refused to adjudicate or take the case, and so it fell back to the palette court, which found my mom guilty of contempt.
And so she was sentenced to jail. Initially it was a 30-day sentence. And they said, okay, we'll make it 10 because my brother and I had just been born and it looked like persecution. They said 10 days, but after the 10-day term, as soon as she walked out of the jail cell, she was going to be confronted by someone from the court, I guess demanding that she reveal the source again. And as soon as she refused, they'd send her right back to jail. So this could go on infinitely. It could go on forever. Mom was really nervous about that because she's a young mother. I was 8 months old. My brother was a year and change.
Fortunately, there was so much attention paid to this story and it was front page news. It was the first time that a reporter had ever gone to jail refusing to reveal a source of information while citing the first amendment. So it was a really, really big deal. And when my mom got out of jail after that initial 10-day sentence, the judge said, alright, we're not going to do this because he was getting death threats, believe it or not. And at that point then. my mom became a celebrity and she went on the speaking circuit, wrote a book, and from that point on, she was offered a job by Westinghouse television stations to become the first woman reporter to do, and this is how they phrased it, “Local news, like a man.”
And that meant she was going to cover the hard stories: the murders, the muggings, the robberies, the rapes. And sure enough, she did. And interestingly, my brother and I at that point we were like four or five years old. They said she could go to any of the cities where they had television stations. There was Philadelphia. There was Chicago, I think. There was Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh, and my mom and dad were trying to decide which one of those cities that they wanted to land in. Because my brother and I were just starting school, my mom said, which one of those cities had the best public school system because they were believers in public education and it turned out Pittsburgh had the best school system, believe it or not.
I think they did. I had a wonderful education. That's where we landed. Can you imagine Pittsburgh, the smog capital of the world back in those days with the steel mills and everything. My parents chose Pittsburgh when they could have gone to beautiful San Francisco. But anyway, it turned out to be a very good decision because Pittsburgh is a lovely, lovely city and very down to earth and we planted ourselves there and we loved it so much. Both my parents ended up buried there in the cemetery, even though they were New Yorkers born and bred.
That's beautiful, and I just think that I can reflect back to you as your friend. I know that your mom must be so proud of you, especially with what you have done in your life and your career, but also what you're doing right now. So for the listener who may not know what you're currently involved with, you are one of five anchors in an age and gender discrimination lawsuit, against your employee. So can you speak on the need to create “Unseen on TV” and what you're fighting for?
Well, we're in the midst of a lawsuit, so I can't say too much about it, but basically five of us women came to the realization that New York One under new management seemed not to value our experience and instead preferred younger women and men of many different ages, older and younger men. But they started to displace us with these younger folks. And at some point we got together and we discovered that there was a unifying thread and it was our age. All of us were over 40. Well actually one of us was 39, but they were not treating her very well. So we consulted a lawyer who told us that discrimination in the workplace based on age and gender is illegal and that he felt that we had a strong case.
So, when you talk about success, our aim basically is to call attention to the issue of ageism in the workplace and prompt employers to change the game, basically. And after the lawsuit was filed and it went public, we were stunned. First of all, we were terrified that this was all going to be for nothing, and that we were all just going to get fired and nothing would come of it, but the very opposite occurred, and we heard from women all over the world who told us that their stories were very similar to our own, and it was very heartening because they said that they felt that nobody was listening to them. They felt that their employers were taking advantage of them and that they had no recourse.
So when they heard what we were doing, it kind of emboldened them with the understanding that maybe they could follow suit and file a lawsuit similar to ours. These women, honestly hundreds of them, were contacting us from such far flung places as Macedonia, and China, and Brazil, and New Zealand, and in the UK, and Ireland, etcetera. It was astounding to me. When the story broke, it hit on the same day that we filed the lawsuit, and it was revealed in a New York Times article.
They sort of had the exclusive first grab at the story, and instantly, they had about 300 responses and comments on the New York Times website to that story. The other 10% were making these rude comments. Ageism as it pertains to women is accepted, but it is a systemic problem. It afflicts women in all different workplaces, obviously not just the newsroom, you mentioned, even on Broadway. It's so much harder once you get to be a certain age and we've seen it definitely in Hollywood, but I call it a plague that has been going on for so long. I think people seem to accept it now as the norm. So what we were hearing or reading in some of these really nasty comments was people were saying, well, why would anybody want to watch an old hag on TV when they could watch a pretty young woman instead?
And so it's come down to how we look. When you think about it, I mean, at least in the news business, there should be a premium on people who have reached a level of expertise. And as I mentioned before, developed an institutional knowledge about issues in the world that they're able to comment on with a certain degree of intellectualism. You don't get that when you're 20 years old or 22 years old, right out of college, but basically that's who was replacing us. And I should amend that, they're not all 22 years old, they're 25, 26, 27. But how can you compare somebody who is very new to a field and doesn't really have an institutional memory or knowledge base that somebody else has, who's lived through 9/11 and who has experienced stories that these folks were not even born to know about.
So it's been extremely frustrating for us that we've had to make a case for ourselves when there should be no reason for that. I mean, you would think that our value would be evident. As the days and months went by under new management at New York One, it became very clear that they were not interested in women of a certain age who had developed a level of expertise over many years of doing a particular job. It didn't matter to them anymore or at least it seemed like it didn't matter to them by the way that we were being treated. So hopefully we have made our collective voice louder, and we have started a conversation that I hope will catch on with the population, certainly with women, but we've heard from enough men too, who seem to be in our corner, and I think maybe it'll all be for the best.
So that is clearly evident in the response that you got, that it's global, that it's an epidemic. For those who are listening, who want to get involved, how can they support this movement?
Well, we love to hear people supporting us on social media. They can reach out to us on Twitter. We started a page called “The Unseen Women in Television,” and we kind of designed it to look like “TV Guide,” but obviously it's a play, a clever switch. We just want to hear from people, they can tell us their stories, because interestingly, since our lawsuit was filed, two or three more women stepped forward and said that they had experienced similar discriminatory treatment and our attorney picked up their case as well. So there is somewhat of a ground swell that is taking place and women are starting to speak up.
If we hear their stories, maybe we can lead them to an attorney or at least help with legal advice. But we can show our experiences and it might be beneficial to them as well. But women have to make a noise. We have to speak up and we can't allow our employers to silence us as they have been doing for many, many, many years. I mentioned my mom's story that she wasn't getting any of the salary. She wasn't getting the title, and yet she was doing the work, that's got to stop. And when she did complain she was told, well, lump it or leave it. She basically didn't really have much leverage in order to get what she wanted. Things have obviously changed for the better, but not good enough.
Yeah. I think one of the tools that you do have positively is social media for everyone having the ability to raise their voice. And so I will just share that that is Unseen on TV, a play on “As Seen on TV.” #UnseenOnTV that's the hashtag and the handle and you can learn more about this. So Roma let's go back. So I know you are a very busy woman and there will be people who relate to this that are juggling auditions and jobs and all of that. So how do you practice this idea of digital wellness for yourself, to have time away from screens and devices and living your best life and doing all of your work?
Yeah. Well, I will tell you that it's overwhelming, social media and those of us of a certain age, unfortunately old dogs, new tricks. I'm the first to admit it's very challenging, very daunting for me to juggle, first of all my work responsibilities, but then all of a sudden when I started at New York One, 27 years ago, there was no social media. We used to call it the information superhighway. What does that mean anymore? But back then, we had no idea that the internet would take off the way it did and how it would kind of rule our lives. So all of a sudden, in addition to being a news woman and getting up to speed on events of the day and being versed on the issues, now I have to promote all of this information that I have on social media.
And it has been really difficult for me to balance all of that. And at some point, it's dizzying, it's head spinning and I have to walk away from it. So I pick times of the day, when I take a train into work. When I sit on the train, I go through my phone and I'm answering emails. I'm tweeting away. More and more the emphasis is on Instagram. And so I'm trying my best to keep up with that, but it's very hard and it's amazing, my kids are so adept at it. And whenever, I say, “How do I do this? How do I do a story or whatever on Instagram?” And they come over and they do it for me, but they're not teaching me.
So it's been very difficult for me to keep up with all this stuff. I have a lot of friends who refuse to do any of it. They're not on Facebook, not on social media. They don't care about Twitter, Instagram, and all of that. And I guess you could call them dinosaurs, but honestly I don't blame them. I kind of envy them. I've seen that there is a movement now where people are just tuning out, shutting down and not even bothering any anymore. It has become all consuming to the point where it makes me crazy to be honest with you. And I have not figured out a strategy to balance properly, but when things just get too overwhelming, I just have to walk away.
So I am trying to keep up and there are days at New York One, they have a screen where they show who's getting the most engagement among our colleagues. And quite often I do have the most engagement and I'm like, “How the heck did that happen?” I'm as surprised as anybody else because I'm probably the least savvy in the newsroom, but I'm doing my best and sometimes it pays off. So I'm very happy about that. There's a lot of room for improvement obviously.
But what people are responding to is who you are and there's clearly a love for your voice, so keep it up.
With your help, I will.
So you're the theatre critic for New York One and you just won your second Emmy. And you mentioned having to create and then share your stories. What's your process like for creating these theatre reviews?
I've seen so many shows and so I've gotten to the point where I kind of have it down to somewhat of a routine. And when I sit down to see a show, first of all, I try to determine what the intent is of the playwright and the director and not all shows are going to appeal to my personal taste obviously, how could it, but I try not to let that influence how I discern whether a show is successful or not. I'll give you a perfect example. Beetlejuice is not my cup of tea personally, but I will say that it's very well done for what it is. And I know what its intention is. They're trying to match the film as much as they can, but with a sort of a theatrical spin.
And I think they do an excellent job of it. It's not like I'd ever want to go back and see it again, but I would recommend it to a certain sector or a certain audience member who would enjoy that sort of thing. In fact, I did recommend it to a workmate who took her daughter and she said it was the best show she's ever seen. Not that she's seen that many, but I try to get into the head of an audience member that would appreciate a particular show.
And then from there, I pick it apart. I look at all the component parts of a show, the acting, the technical designs, the direction obviously, and I do understand it is a collaborative medium. I used to be an actress so I know that not everything is successful. Sometimes there's great acting, but the direction stunk or maybe the score isn't really complimentary to the narrative, so I try to pick apart what works, what doesn't work and occasionally you'll get a show that just hits on all levels and you have a massive hit, but I hate to throw the baby out with the a bath water. I try to be kind as much as I can because I know how deflating and how destructive that can be to an ego, because I've been on the bad end of reviews when I was acting, and it could kill you.
I have some friends who were in the business who told me that they almost quit the business altogether despite having incredible talent, so I know that critics can be really cruel and that upsets me because in order to get a show produced professionally, there's gotta be some merit to it. There's got to be something that worked. Rarely have I seen anything where I just say “What an abortion on the stage,” rarely, rarely. So I think it behooves us in the critical world to make sure to call attention to what worked and what doesn't work. We should mention that too, but not in an insulting way. Walter Kerr is the critic that I most aspire to emulate in my writing because he always had constructive criticism.
And I think that's what we need. And who was it? Somebody I had interviewed once at the Jujamcyn Theaters. Oh, Jordan Roth! He was telling me that he appreciated negative reviews when they were done in a sympathetic way because he said it made sure to steer audience members either to a show or away from a show, based on how they described the problems with it or the successes with the show. So he said, “We don't want audience members to feel they wasted their money. We want people to come who really would get something out of the theatrical experience that we put on the stage.” And I so appreciated that he even said that because it does make perfect sense that not every show is everybody's cup of tea, obviously.
And you won your second Emmy for your coverage of Come From Away, is that right?
No, I won my second Emmy for a compilation of all my theater reviews, for my work in the entire year as a theatre critic, and I review about 40 or 50 shows a year, so it was based on the whole year's efforts.
Well, that's great. And I apologize for my ignorance there. Let's rewind to your first Emmy in 1991. And that was your coverage of the Avianca Plane Crash Disaster. I don't even know what that is, but can you share what that moment of recognition was like for you winning this large award?
Well, it was quite a few years ago. I was a lot younger and to me, I was just doing my job, but I'll just back up a little bit. I was actually in bed and my phone rang and I was told to get out immediately and go to this site of a plane crash in Long Island. And it was Avianca. I believe it was the Columbia airline. And it had crashed in the backyard of John McEnroe's father, and I just happened to live not far from there. So I got in the car and it was in the middle of the night and we went over the road that was closed, but then I sort of made a detour and I went around to the hospital where they were bringing the victims. It was very sad. A lot of people died in that awful plane crash.
But to me it was just all in a day's work. I was a young, very eager beaver news woman and it was a lot of, please don't take this the wrong way, but it was so energizing in a sense. It was very rewarding to go to the scene of a disaster like that and spin a story and just keep talking and talking and talking on the air until there wasn't anymore to talk about. But we stayed on the air all night, covering that plane crash as best we could, and so it was a group effort and it was me and the whole pool of our talent back then, it was when I was a reporter at News 12 Long Island.
So it was extremely gratifying that we were recognized for that, but awards, they come and go, they're very subjective and, some matter more than others, but I'm always very happy to find out that people appreciate my work.
Well, you've been awarded two Emmy's now, and more than 30 other awards. Before we started recording, you said you're getting an award, you're giving someone else an award. Let me ask you how you personally define success?
That's a tough one. I think you can't get success until you fail and fail a lot. And success is in the climbing. It's not in reaching something that you regard as success, it's in the effort. I look at each day as a challenge and if I can get through the day and feel that I did my best despite all of the obstacles and all the odds against me and I can hold my head up high and say, darn it, I did what I could then that to me is a success.
And so success is a day to day effort. And I'm kind of happy about the fact that once we did file that lawsuit, whether we win or not, I don't care at this point. Wait, I take that back. Of course I care, but we have done so much to start that conversation and continue the conversation that I feel that we have successfully made our point, no matter how it ends.
Well, Roma I want to reflect back to you. I left New York, I moved to Bali to have a little bit of an easier life, just because of all of the hard news that is happening in our country, and in our city. So while I have you, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you, you cover a lot of politics: both local news in New York City and then also national news. So how do you speak of success and doing your best every day? How do you continue in the political climate that we're in, where it literally feels like a war between two parties right now. How do you handle bringing truth to these stories?
Yeah, New York One started in 1992, it was a vision of some wonderful men who were hardened journalists and they were very committed to creating essentially a hometown news channel, and the mandate from our bosses was to tell stories that mattered most to New Yorkers and ratings didn't really matter that much to them. In fact, they didn't expect to make a lot of money. They just wanted to do a really good job, but politics ranked very high on their list of priorities because as we've come to discover, people in power can do a lot to make or break our personal wellbeing in this world.
And even though back then politics was regarded as kind of boring and not nearly as interesting as the murders and the robberies. Our management put a lot of emphasis on our political coverage, insisting that we put the hard questions to our elected officials and city leaders. And they found that to be in their words, sexy news, because we were making a difference. We were putting our city leaders, New York One only really covered the city, but we were putting our leaders on the spot and forcing them to answer the hard questions.
And interestingly in those early days, we developed a reputation for not letting them get away with the standard platitudes. We pushed really hard. And as a result of all that, as a consequence we didn't get a lot of people initially wanting to come on New York One to answer these hard questions. We started a program called Inside City Hall and we worked really hard to make sure that people understood that we weren't going to take any guff and that we were going to follow up.
And so we developed a reputation for speaking truth to power on the show, and we suddenly developed a very dedicated following of viewers who, with it all, understood that we were getting to the core of issues and we weren't trying to make it entertaining. We were trying to make it real and trying to force these politicians or nail them down to answer the hard questions. So after a while, the politicians realized that we could provide a platform for them to get their message out. So little by little, we kind of worked our way through the system and they came to understand that by coming on New York One and subjecting themselves to the hard questions, it made them better politicians, better leaders. Certainly when they had to sit for debates or stand for debates, but it served a purpose for all of us.
They were able to get their message across and we were able to allow our viewers to understand what the real story was and get to the truth. They just had to endure a grilling in the process, but so be it, and so it has worked. In those early days, you should know that Rudy Giuliani wouldn't come on our show. We couldn't get the governor to come on our show. Everybody was angry with us, everybody, but I think over time they came to the realization that we didn't have an agenda. We didn't have an ax to grind. We just wanted to nail them down and get them to tell us the truth, and we weren't going to take any of their sidestepping.
So I think it worked and now everybody is clamoring to get on New York One on our Inside City Hall show. In fact, we have a segment called Mondays with the Mayor and Mayor De Blasio appears almost without fail every Monday, whether it is live in our studios or remotely from some far flung location. When he was running for president he would talk to us from Iowa or New Hampshire or wherever he was campaigning. So it turned out to be a real success, but we did it, it was a slow, but sure process, and we finally reached a happy medium.
Well, we're nearing the end, but I want to reflect back to you that, again, I think your mom would be so proud. And what I want to share with the listener is at least myself at the age of 34, I think we can have limiting beliefs of what our life looks like, whether that's relationships or whether that's parenting or whether that's career success, but you have actually done it all. You're happily married. You have two incredible humans and you have an award-winning career and you've created your own legacy and you're still continuing to do so every day by fighting the fight against bringing truth to power. So with that, is there any advice that you would share with someone my age or younger or young parents, what's a life lesson that you can pass on?
Well, first of all, I am no paragon of parenthood. I have been very lucky in my life and career that I've been able to be home for the big and little events that involved my children. But I would have to say that parents, young parents have to realize that not every child is the same and you discipline each child in a different way. And you have to figure out what works for a kid. In terms of advice, I would say don't expect to live through your children and you should expect to be disappointed by your children, but always keep an open mind that they're individuals who have to learn from failing and have to fall on their face a few times and always be there. Tell them you'll be there to support them.
Sometimes you'll pick them up, but sometimes they have to pick themselves up and let them find their own path. You cannot live for your children. I think that's been the biggest mistake for some friends of mine who've had some big disappointments with their kids. I can tell you that through thick and thin, and my kids turned out very differently from what I thought they were going to be, or from my wishes for them. But I love them dearly and we become not just a supportive parent and a dutiful child. We have become best friends. And to me, that is the ultimate success as a parent.
You do what you can, but you have to let them fall down and you have to let them make the mistakes. And don't say, I told you so, I learned that in the hard way too. You cannot intrude on their lives. You just have to see them fall down and pick themselves up as they go. It's been quite an adventure being a parent. And I always call it the agony and the ecstasy of parenting. It can be so horrible. And believe me, we went through some rough times during those high school years especially with my son who I adore and he's really come full circle, but it's difficult. You just have to stay the course with your kids and understand they are not little angels all the time. They're going to be devils, and they're going to give you grief.
The college application process. I think we almost killed each other, but we came through, they graduated, and they're on their own and I'm extremely proud of them, even though they're nothing like what I had imagined or intended. But so be it, it's even better now. They're, their own person, their own people.
Yes. Well, they're wonderful. I've met both of them, but another thing that I want to share with people that I think probably was a huge moment for you was you fought and survived stage four, colon cancer. So what did that moment of questionable mortality teach you about life?
Ah, yeah. Well, what did it teach me? You got to live each day at a time. Let me just get through this part first. The basic lesson that I learned is that you have to get yourself screened routinely for whatever health issues might bring you down. In my case, I put off having a colonoscopy, even though I'd reached the age of 50, and I just thought, well, I'm healthy. I live a good life and I don't have any of the risk factors, but I found out the hard way. I got cancer anyway. I was shocked out of my mind because I didn't have any symptoms, but the bottom line is if you're 50 or older and yet haven't gotten a colonoscopy at this point, you should go and consider the fact that colon cancer is the second deadliest of cancers.
And yet it is the most preventable. That to me just makes no sense when you consider that proper screening will save your life. You just have to do it. I know some people just find it just too invasive. It's embarrassing, obviously the whole notion of a colonoscopy, but a little bit of embarrassment is certainly worth it if it means it's going to save your life. So that's sort of the clinical answer to it. But what I have learned also, is that cancer is not a death sentence, certainly not anymore. I was living in dread of the big C. My mom died of lung cancer and I just always, for whatever the reason, I always thought that would be the end of me. And so when I got that awful diagnosis, I was very fatalistic and I thought it's over.
Then I started thinking, how are they going to manage without me? By the way, to those people who say I'm so afraid of getting the bad news so they put off getting tested or going to the doctor if they experience any symptoms. And so they just don't want to deal with any bad news. I would say, then you may not want to deal with it, but think about the people that you would be leaving behind. And so if you're not going to pursue treatment or pursue a diagnosis for yourself, do it for your loved ones, do it as a birthday present for somebody. So I mean, that is my advice to anybody who is concerned that maybe there is something wrong with their body physically, but they just don't want to deal with the bad news.
And then basically I would have to say every day is a blessing. Every single day on this earth is a blessing. And I have learned that I can't get upset about the little things. I can't let those things bother me. I mentioned this to you earlier, but this is a life lesson for me. Leading up to filing a lawsuit. For the three years that I was going through this feeling of being victimized and feeling abused in the workplace, it was really weighing heavily on me and I couldn't sleep at night. I was waking up with migraines and all of that. When I finally decided to take matters into my own hands, we filed this lawsuit and we knew it was going to be a long shot because, usually you don't win these cases all that easily. But the fact that we were taking matters into our own hands and taking responsibility for something that we felt was unjust, changed everything for me. And I didn't have those migraines anymore.
And I just feel like I'm in control and I'm doing what's right. Come with me. So I've learned that lesson. I got that one from my mom who went to jail, God bless her for principal. And you're right. I think she is smiling down on me because I'm sort of following in her footsteps, but we do have to take it day by day and if you can go to bed and feel really good about yourself at night without any regrets, then that is my definition of success.
Thank you so much Roma. I wish I could talk to you for a week or a month. I just continue to ask you lots of questions, but I think we better wrap it up. So obviously we can see you on New York One, but what is the best way to get connected with you to see all of your new theatre reviews and see what you're covering, Twitter and Instagram or whatever it may be.
Alright. Well, I have a website called RomaTorre.com and anybody is welcome to check it out and you can also reach me by way of my website. So if you want to send me a message or whatever, believe me, I have been inundated with folks who just want to share a pleasant message or a message of support. I have been hearing from so many people and I really do appreciate that. It really makes my day. So anybody feel free and if you want to know what I think about a show, you can check out my reviews on the website as well, and I'm thinking of starting a blog and hopefully one day I'll have my own podcast and I can share my intimate feelings about shows that I may not be able to say on on a family channel and I have a sort of a sailor's vocabulary and I'd be very happy to reveal myself unplugged. So one day it's coming, just stay tuned.
Can't wait for that. Well, Roma thank you so so much. It has been such an honor to work with you, but a true pleasure today to speak with you. And I thank you for everything that you shared with us and the work that you're doing.
Thank you, Tony. I really, really appreciate it. It has been a blessing to know you.
Thank you, Roma, and thank you for listening. Now, if you want to connect with Roma, be sure to follow her @RomaTorreNYC or check out RomaTorre.com. And I have to correct that the Twitter handle to follow and support this age and gender discrimination lawsuit is @UnseenWomenOnTV. Again, @UnseenWomenOnTV and the hashtag is #BroadcastWomen. Really incredible stuff there. So be sure to go check it out.
Now I did promise you some exciting news. Season Two is coming! We have been strategizing behind the scenes of how to make this show even better. And we do have some exciting changes as well as amazing guests to share with you.
But I want your feedback. So I'm going to ask you now what changes, that's what this show is all about, are you trying to make? What changes in your life, in your career, in the world that we live in? I want to know how I can help you. Also, who do you want to hear from now? Obviously I would love it if you would leave your thoughts in a review, but I do welcome your feedback and ideas on any channel. And I even welcome constructive criticism, so if you'd rather send me a DM, my social is @TonyHowell, or you can even email me [email protected]
So as we approach the end of 2019 and the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. I also want to theme November, #HonoringMyPast. Well, I do believe like Eckhart Tolle that the power is in now, we all have a past and we need to honor it, the best and the worst. So I'm going to challenge you to share something on social media, with #HonoringMyPast. Now that can be as simple as a throwback photo or a revealing story about a defining moment in your life. You choose, but definitely make sure that you use the #HonoringMyPast.
We're going to feature the “best of” on social, and in next month's talk show. Now, if you want to learn more about me and the work that my company does to support artists, please come over to TonyHowell.me and check us out. I wish you an incredible November and do make sure that you take time to look back, to honor how far you've come and all that you already have.
I wish you a very happy holiday season.