Shuster bypassed his senior year in high school and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, spending all his extracurricular time carrying around a tape recorder and conducting interviews. Shuster even covered the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention.
Getting television experience became a priority for Shuster but the University had no such facilities. While attending journalism class, Shuster learned something interesting about FCC requirements. The rules said that local commercial stations were obligated to air news and public affairs programming for about 5% of the broadcast day. Milwaukee's Channel 18, WVTV, didn't have any news, so Shuster cannily figured that they were in violation of the law. He saw an opportunity to provide some news programming for the station and get some much-needed television experience in return. It would be a win/win situation. He called on WVTV's General Manager, Joe Loughlin.
To his surprise, Loughlin informed Shuster that WVTV's local baseball coverage of the Milwaukee Brewers counted as news. However, Loughlin liked Shuster's idea and gave him and his fellow students a daily half hour from 7:00 to 7:30am.
WVTV, Channel 18 in Milwaukee. Former WTVT News Director Joe Loughlin was the
The program, which Shuster named "News Focus," started in 1967 with the 18-year-old as anchor, and other students providing sports and weather. "There weren't a lot of viewers, and there was no film to show," recalls Shuster. "It was just us with a script looking into the camerano prompterbut what a great experience. We got college credit for doing the show. " The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's student newscast "News Focus" remains on the air today, 35 years later!
Loughlin eventually created an 11p.m. newscast in hopes of capturing the Midwest audience who weren't tuning in to the 10 p.m. news on the network affiliate stations. When WVTV's anchor, Tom Lueders, departed for another market, Loughlin hired Shuster to be his replacement. That made 20-year-old Scott Shuster the country's youngest anchorman.
In addition to his nightly anchor position, Shuster was a graduate student of political science at Marquette University when Loughlin called him in one day in 1972. "Joe said 'Listen, you're very good and we want you to be an anchorman at WTVT in Tampa, Florida. ' He offered me the job. It was not a question of going down and meeting with Hugh Smith or Ray Dantzler or Gene Dodson. I had the position if I wanted it. So I kicked it around with my parents, who urged me to finish graduate school. But I decided to take it."
Shuster packed his summer wardrobe and drove a '63 Valiant to sunny Tampa. The Suncoast was quite a culture shock to the native midwesterner as he observed the southern pace of life, the casual dress of the locals, the occasional dirt streets, and wooden houses that seemed primitive compared to Milwaukee's sturdy, weather resistant structures of brick. But the people, lifestyle, and beaches eventually won him over as he settled into an ocean-front converted garage in Indian Rocks Beach. "I totally fell in love with the region," declares the former newsman.
Shuster hit the ground running. A day or two after he arrived in Tampa, Shuster attended the first discussions for a new hour-long program he was going to anchor. "I remember going into a meeting with Ray Dantzler, Pat Colmenares, Hugh Smith, Bruce Hutchcraft, and Dick Harvey. They were calling it "Pulse Midday," which was the name of Dick's half-hour show in the same time period. I suggested the title "Pulse Plus!" Ray said 'I like that' and the decision was taken.Shuster was determined to help break down the walls between the newscasters and the viewers. "I had noticed watching Dick Harvey's segments that you would see the newscaster separated from the weather guy and the sports guyeven though the set allowed for that. Nobody was talking to each other except for transitions. There was no chit chat. I said 'why don't we widen out and show us together?' Joe Wiezycki was our director and he worked with us on that. And Pulse Plus! was very successful. "
Shuster served as the Pulse Plus! anchor, a weekend Pulse News anchor, Breakfast Beat news anchor, and relief for vacationing newsmen. Shuster was constantly recording air checks to improve his delivery and on-camera persona. Already an experienced newsman, Shuster's presentation was not only professional, but personal, engaging, and frequently humorous. In the opinion of many staffers, Shuster became WTVT's most accomplished on-air newsman. "I did some interesting things like taking a map and showing viewers where fighting was going on in Africa," he recalls. "I was so young, and working with very conservative on-air talent -- people like Hugh and Roy: Very serious types. I quickly found that I could not be like them. I viewed myself as wild and crazy compared to them -- more like Sol than like Hugh! Around the newsroom, too, I was often a wacky character. Luckily Cy Smith was always around to point me in the right direction. I greatly admired and respected Cy. And by the way, I viewed and still view Andy Hardy as a one-two with Peter Jennings as the greatest on-air talent I have ever known. Andy was absolutely a presentational role model for me, a real on-air genius."
Shuster found camaraderie with his WTVT co-workers, especially country music star Ernie Lee. "I was working with Ernie and of course, country music was in my background. I'd jam with Ernie off-camera, but never on the air. I remember coming in with my Dobro guitar and strumming with Ernie. Ernie helped me purchase two guitars that I still have. He got on the air one day and announced that I was looking for two steel guitars. A policeman from Brooksville responded, and I bought one from him for $60. I later discovered it was worth about $4,000 . I still have it. NOT for sale!"Between anchoring Pulse Plus and the weekend Pulse News, Shuster would frequently work seven days a week until Lesley Schissell and later Leslie Spencer took over the Sunday evening news. At 22 and 23 years of age, Scott's entire life was wrapped up in his career. He had no personal life to speak of and had never experienced a serious relationship. It was a situation that would almost cripple him following a career crisis.