WGGB: 70 Years - reflecting on reporting in western Massachusetts

If you’ve watched local news in the last 40-plus years, you’ll no doubt recognize the names Ray Hershel and Dave Madsen.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 8:54 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2023 at 11:01 PM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) -- If you’ve watched local news in the last 40-plus years, you’ll no doubt recognize the names Ray Hershel and Dave Madsen. Both spent their entire television broadcast careers in western Massachusetts and both have been inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

It’s no stretch to say that since the 1970′s, both Hershel and Madsen have become household names in western Massachusetts as well as local television news icons. Both started their television careers in the 1970′s, only about 20 years removed from the start of WHYN-TV on April 14, 1953 and a little more than a decade after the studios at 1300 Liberty Street officially became known as ABC40.

As a cub reporter in 1973, Hershel explained how the technology was a little more hands-on at the time. “You would go out with a photographer and as Dave said, you would shoot on 16-millimeter film. The photographer would have Bolex cameras. They would shoot the film, the reporter would get the facts. They would come back to the station and would have to process the film in a processing room, going through chemicals, developing the film, and then you had to take the film and put it on a small reel, chop and splice, chop and splice, put it on a small reel and that reel ran on a projector,” He explained.

WEB EXTRA: Watch the full interview with Ray and Dave

It was a labor intensive process to say the least, but by the 1980s, ABC40, along with the news industry as a whole, made the switch to video. It was a more technologically advanced format, but still back breaking when covering breaking news.

“You had a separate camera. You had a recorder pack. You had all of your batteries. [Pisano: which were called bricks because they were heavy as bricks] They were bricks, but you know they had to white balance and everything else and I can remember the photographers going ‘We hate it’ because by the time you get set up…the story could be done, especially with breaking news,” Madsen said.

Yet, with Madsen and Hershel behind the desk or out in the field, breaking news was exactly what they brought their viewers. From local P.O.W.’s coming home to Westover in the middle of the night from Vietnam to the devastating tornado that tore through the area in 2011.

“The raw emotion of that night…When the P.O.W.’s were getting off the plane on the tarmac, families rushed out. There was a band playing. It really hit in terms of the impact TV news could have in portraying a story,” Hershel noted of the P.O.W. return to Westover.

“We went from a quiet afternoon to just pure hell, but it was also the best television I think we ever did,” Madsen recalled about the June 1, 2011 tornado.

Having both spent the entirety of their broadcast careers in western Massachusetts, their passion and love for our area always came through. They are two local journalists who decided that home isn’t just where the heart is, it’s also where the news happens.

“Both of us, we’ve talked about this in the past. You know, we were comfortable once we had our kids. It got to a point where we didn’t want to uproot them, so the ability to do that and, for me, the other part was for me when people were comfortable to come up and say ‘I like this…didn’t like that’ or suggest this or that, that they were that comfortable with us,” Madsen explained.

“We were familiar with the newsmakers. They were familiar with us and that added to, I think, the credibility we tried to portray as reporters and we exhibited as reporters and people felt comfortable seeing their fellow citizens on the air, who grew up in this area, and it added to the credibility of the reporter and without that credibility, there’s not much a reporter has, so that worked out extremely well...just being part of the community,” Hershel said.