Dan Rather praised Scott's ratings power in Tampa

Shuster was riding high when CBS's Dan Rather visited the station on a promotional tour.  At the time, Walter Cronkite was still anchoring the CBS weeknight news while Rather's weekend broadcasts followed Shuster's Pulse news.  Shuster recalls "Dan's morning at Channel 13 was largely spent with Hugh and senior management, but while we were sitting together at the anchor desk for promotional photos he remarked that the newscasts I anchored on those weekends provided his strongest lead-in ratings of any market in the country.  He invited me to be in touch with him in the future.  I was thrilled and the wheels started turning: Network on-air job?  Hmmm..."

The opportunity to leave weekend anchoring behind came up soon after Rather's visit, and Shuster was ready to go for it.  "Paul Hoffman was leaving the 11 p.m.  news block, and I was talking to sales people at 13 about how I would love to anchor the 11 p.m. or perhaps even the 6 p.m. block.  This is not something to say when you're working for the guy who anchors the 6 p.m. block.  One of the sales people told me that I'd done a good job with Pulse Plus! and the weekend news, and that they'd love to see me on either the 11 p.m. or 6 p.m. news.  Shortly thereafter, Hugh calls me into his office and says 'Scott, we've had enough of this with you'  I said 'Enough of what?'  Hugh said 'Look, I don't really want to go into it but the time has come for us to find someone else.'"

"I said 'What??? You want me to leave? 'He said 'That's right.' 

Well, like the time I got the bad news at WMIL, I had an emotional reaction.  I don't think I cried outright , but I was literally shocked and I just sat there stunned.  Petrified.  I remember I could hardly breathe!  You see, it wasn't just a job to me:  At that time, it was my whole identity.  Hugh said some very encouraging words about my future and tried to be genial," says Shuster, chuckling at the memory. "But he was talking to a fencepost.  'Why.?' was about all I could muster, and he repeatedly and specifically refused to answer the question, leaving me in the dark about the real reason.  'Could I do anything to change to your mind?'  'No.  The decision has been made.'  After a short conversation he left his office, inviting me to stay there as long as I liked.  I came out a minute later smiling that tongue-in-cheek smile, shook a lot of hands and got ready to leave."  Shuster was given a box to pack his things and he departed WTVT a few minutes later. The story of his dismissal made headlines in both the Tampa and St. Pete papers. Shuster interviewed for a news position with Joe Mannion at Channel 8, who was interested but had no immediate openings. 

What really triggered Shuster's firing? Was it his on-air antics? His backstage comments about anchoring the 6 p.m. news? Something else? To this day, Shuster isn't sure, and it still perplexes him. "I was highly regarded, got nothing but positive feedback from everybody, and all of a sudden, I'm let go.  I walked out the door in complete bewilderment.  'Was it this?  Was it that?  Why did this happen?  Was it Hugh's decision?'  I still don't know.  Whatever the reason was, it was a stupid reason because it was clearly a mistake:  They lost years of investment in a very well-liked local personality who might have delivered an audience effectively for decades in the future.  That's not smart.  You don't fire your best up-and-coming on air talent.  You work with them to smooth out the rough edges and you hang onto your investment and make it pay.  Whoever drove the decision to fire me should be ashamed of themselves.  They did harm to WTVT and to Gaylord Broadcasting. Remember, I had worked for that company in two markets.  I was a devoted employee not only to Channel 13 but to the larger corporation.  My firing was obviously not driven by any lack of ability to do my job."