A career in news is clearly taking off


TV: Jimmy Mathis...

September 21, 1997|By Linell Smith

A career in news is clearly taking off; TV: Jimmy Mathis, who 0) made headlines as a solo cross-country pilot at age 16, is now, at 19, an editor and photographer at WBFF.

Jimmy Mathis, the youngest person to fly a plane solo across the United States, is now one of the youngest people wielding a camera for a major-market television station.

Barely out of high school, the Glen Arm teen-ager works at Channel 45/54 full time as an editor and photographer. He's already won a local award for editing and recently shot and edited a two-minute photo essay on the tall ship Clipper City.

"Jimmy's not your typical 19-year-old," says assistant news director Scott Livingston. "He understands news and deals well with the public. Many people his age couldn't tell you the governor's name or know anything about the politics of Baltimore. Jimmy can pull all of that off."

Three summers ago, the lanky, 6-foot-3 teen made aviation history when he piloted a Cessna 172 alone on a 12-day journey to California. He was 16, the youngest age at which the Federal Aviation Administration will allow a pilot to fly solo. The agency honored his accomplishments at a ceremony in Washington.

Mathis began working as an intern at WBFF when he was a student at Towson Catholic High School. First, he had a part-time job in production. Next, he took advantage of a sudden opportunity -- he was the only person at the station who could use a new editing machine during a tense deadline situation -- to secure a regular free-lance job as an editor.

Then, seven months ago, Mathis was hired full time as editor-photographer. He has put college on hold to learn the TV business.

But this doesn't mean he's given up flying. He often rents a plane to fly friends to Atlantic City or Ocean City. "I fly a lot, but I stay local," he says. He calls his historic trip to California "an incredible experience."

Mathis is not the kind of person who slips his accomplishments into the conversation. Livingston says it never dawned on him that Jimmy Mathis was the same guy whose flight Fox 45 had covered, until well after the teen-ager had moved from production into news.

"He is the last person to toot his own horn," says entertainment reporter Sloane Brown. "In this business, you usually think that people who don't promote themselves don't get ahead. Yet here is someone who knows how to quietly get himself ahead in a manner that isn't abrasive."

Mathis still lives at home -- "I get along great with my parents" -- and attributes his success so far to pouring himself into his job.

"If I'm interested in something, I can go at it 150 percent and usually do well at it," he says. "I put all my extra time into this. I'd eventually like to be a reporter or an anchor. I've become a news junkie, I guess."

One who's hard to keep up with: By press time, Mathis had already added another notch to his resume. He begins working as an editor and photographer for WBAL Channel 11 in two weeks.

Cheryl Hook isn't having much luck pinpointing the entertainment role models responsible for lack of manners in the '90s.

"I keep hearing about this Beavis and Butt-head, but I don't watch that," says Hook, who is in her late 40s.

Whoever's to blame for the '90s dearth of politeness, she's doing something about it.

The Catonsville resident, who grew up in Rosedale, recently earned certification for teaching young people etiquette at the Protocol School of Washington. She is developing her own youth etiquette consulting business, and has already experimented with several young clients.

"Giving kids this information will give them confidence and self-esteem," she says. "It's something we all need to know on a basic level."

When Hook was young, she learned manners by example -- that of her parents. "You didn't even know you were picking it up."

But in those days, her family ate dinner together every night and her mother did not work outside the house. Hook recognizes that's not so common anymore and says teaching manners is not a practical priority.

"Parents are away from their children all day," she says. "They don't want to be ogres at night."

Add to that the reality of a world where "fish fork" is a foreign term and women are offended by men opening doors, and the question arises: Isn't etiquette a tad effete and outdated?

Holding a tray decorated with an impressionist painting and neatly arranged slivers of pastry, a pot of coffee and china trimmed with pink roses, she offers a polite, sensible response.

"My main goal is to mainstream manners," the grandmother of three says. "I don't want it to be this elitist thing."

Etiquette for modern times

To that end, Hook has updated her etiquette tips for the '90s. She covers, for instance, behavior at rock concerts: "Say excuse me when you trample over people's feet." And she addresses call-waiting protocol: Never go to Caller 2 until the conversation with Caller 1 is finished, she advises.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.