ROCKFORD (WREX) – It’s not often in the broadcast television industry that an employee at a local station spends more than a decade at one station —especially when that person is as talented as Gus Polly.
Gus, who is the newscast director of our morning show, 13 News Today, has been with 13 WREX since Nov. 23, 2007. And in that time, he has grown into one of the most talented directors in the more than 66 years this television station has been on the air.
First and foremost, Gus is a wealth of information. The amount of institutional knowledge that will walk out the door this Friday has us all a little on edge! If you have a question about the operations of this station, Gus almost certainly has the answer.
"Gus will forever be remembered as a guy who could simply do it all," said Josh Morgan, station manager at WREX. "His imprint on the station will be seen for several years to come. So many parts of the 13 News brand that you know today, has Gus' fingerprints all over it."
Gus has seen, and been a big part of, significant technological change at the station in his more than 12 years with WREX. Gus played a vital role in the station's transition from standard definition to high definition back in 2010 as well as the station’s overhaul of its control room in 2014. Everything Gus once knew, was all of the sudden different, and he was tasked with figuring out what we were capable of doing with our new systems.
And that remained true 2 years later when we launched our brand-new studio and news set. Gus helped push the new set to its limits. He found ways for us to utilize our new technology in a way that was anything but mundane. His creativity, ambition and his passion paved the way for our success on these types of projects over his 12 years.
“Gus has led the way to our current standard of newscast technical execution,” said Peter Gungel, chief engineer at WREX. “His expertise has played a central role in the training of our current master control operator and newscast director staff. We would not be anywhere near our current on-air technical level without the proficiency of the operators and directors behind the scenes, and we have Gus to thank for that.”
The change in technology is much more than what you see on television. Gus was a master of our station archives, as well. Although, those archives have changed significantly since 2007. He started with tapes, then moved to DVDs and now works primarily with files. And while the archiving system has changed, Gus' knowledge of the content in those archives remains unmatched in the building. If you need to find old video, even video that preceded Gus' tenure, he was the guy to find it for you.
"Gus is the Ken Jennings of WREX," said Theresa Wesseln, administration and human resources manager at WREX. "His knowledge of all things station-related may be unmatched. He will be remembered in a very special way by the family he leaves at the station."
While the person in the morning show director chair hasn’t changed since 2007, the people who have been the public face of the show during his tenure certainly have. From his first morning team of Marissa Alter, Ryan Cummings and meteorologist Adam Painter, to his current team of Maggie Polsean, Evan Leake, Cassandra Bretl and meteorologist Justin Ballard, and every anchor, meteorologist and reporter in between, Gus has been the steady hand and the guiding voice behind the show’s success.
“He is the most thorough, no nonsense person I have worked with," said Kim Carney, general sales manager at 13 WREX, who worked with Gus for the entirety of his 12 years at the station. "Gus is the ‘go-to’ for answers. If he doesn’t know on the spot, he finds the answer. I am going to miss his dependability and knowledge."
That dependability and knowledge had a profound impact on the growth of so many people, both on-air and off, who worked side-by-side with Gus. That was never more evident than when Gus officially announced that he was leaving WREX on Facebook earlier this month.
Dozens of people commented on Gus’ post and shared their well-wishes. And that gratitude came from everywhere, including current co-workers at WREX.
"Gus was the director when I started producing the morning show in 2017,” said Andy Carrigan, digital director at WREX. “Gus' knowledge helped me become a better producer and journalist and I'll always be grateful for his assistance over the years. He'll be dearly missed here at the station."
And that influence Gus had on people, translated to massive on-air success during his tenure. Gus directed morning newscasts in three consecutive years that were honored with Regional Emmy Awards. In 2015, Gus directed the morning show on April 10, the morning after a tragic tornado ripped through Ogle and DeKalb counties. He guided team coverage during the two-hour show that provided comprehensive information on the aftermath of the storm.
And needless to say, Gus was excited the moment the announcement was made at the event in Chicago.
“Gus is a team player in every sense of the term,” said Kyle Yonkers, creative services director at WREX. “He's always cared deeply about the quality of our final product that makes its way to air. We will certainly notice his absence.”
And that care for the product led to two more Emmy awards in 2016 and 2017 for 13 News Today as well as several Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for Overall Excellence, in which Gus’ work was highlighted front and center. In 2018, the station took home a National Murrow for Overall Excellence, the first National Murrow in the history of WREX.
"What a gift to have an employee who you can trust to do their job, do it well, and help elevate others in the process," said Audrey Moon, news director at WREX. "Gus is the true unsung hero at 13 WREX. He made us better every single day he was here and we will all truly miss the man who, quite literally, kept us on the air day after day."
He kept us on the air, but he also played a big role in what our station looks like. You know that ticker you see at the bottom of the screen on election night with all of the live results? Gus made that. You know that split screen graphic we use to show you both our anchor at home and our anchor in the studio? Gus made that. And that list goes on for a long time.
Gus was also the director for 13 News at Noon during his time at WREX. A recurring segment on that show each week is our "Pet of the Week" feature, where we highlight local animals currently up for adoption. Gus is known by all of us as a huge animal lover — especially a lover of cats.
Each time Winnebago County Animal Services brought in a cat for adoption, we weren't sure if that cat was going to leave the building again without getting adopted by Gus first.
While Gus is the consummate professional with the incredible work he accomplished, it was these moments where everyone got a glimpse at his softer side, the side that made so many people gravitate to Gus in their time spent with him.
"It's the goal of everyone in life to be well-liked for who they are as a person and well-respected for who they are as a professional,” Morgan said. “Gus can leave WREX knowing he’s accomplished both of those goals.”
Gus' final newscasts will be Friday, May 15 from 5 a.m.-7 a.m. and 12-12:30 p.m. on 13 WREX.
From all of us here at WREX, congratulations Gus, we're certainly going to miss you.
Other Quotes About Gus:
“Gus has the sharpest eyes of anyone at the station. He’s able to glance at a video and then tell you the exact specs of the video. He’s the only person I’ve met that’s able to do that, and I always found that extraordinary. The number of times he’s spotted issues before they become actual problems is incalculable. Those are the kind of eyes you want in a director/Master Control Operator.”Jesse Schubert, production manager at WREX
“Gus was great to work with! He was also very good at his job, always got me the information I needed in a timely manner and was very thorough. He will be missed. Best of luck, Gus!”Kelly Galluzzo, local sales manager at WREX
13 WREX bids farewell to longtime director of “13 News Today”In graphical projects and technical troubleshooting, his persistence and knowledge set him apart as our go-to person to “get the job done.” If we are unsure about how to get an unusual video file type to air or how to make an on-air ticker function in a new way, or if we have a question in one of a myriad other specialties areas that no one else has the answer to, he is who we turn to.Peter Gungel, chief engineer at WREX