Jay Cascio (’86):
University of Washington alumnus and two-time Emmy winner Jay Cascio’s outstanding journalistic accomplishments as a producer and writer with experience in branding and management serve as a template for UW students with hopes of entering the field.
“In school, I decided to be a reporter after taking a couple of communication classes,” recalled Cascio. “It’s amazing what a little feedback can do.”
He first began his career in broadcast journalism as a sophomore in college, when he started working as a courier for KIRO-TV.
“I drove a little Toyota truck around town delivering video tape, packages and letters,” Cascio recalled. “One day, the producer of a show called PM Magazine stopped me in the hall and asked (me) to audition for a new role on his show.”
What he didn’t know was that this would spark a lifelong career in broadcast journalism, a field that, until recently, he hadn’t even given a second thought to.
Cascio recalled the chaos that came with his sudden success: “From then on, I was juggling a full-time job with a full work load at school.”
The demands of producing and shooting a story every week eventually brought him to a critical decision, when he chose work over school. Continuing his work for “PM Magazine,” he transferred over as a feature reporter and weatherman in 1985, when KIRO officials decided to cancel the show for which they had recruited him.
Dissatisfied with his new position, he decided to return to his educational pursuits, this time attempting a law degree at University of Puget Sound.
Still, Cascio thought little about the prospect of a lifelong career in broadcast: “I thought my six-year broadcast career was over at age 24.”
It was, at least until about halfway through law school, when the executives at KING-TV decided they weren’t quite done with Cascio. “They asked if I’d come on board to create a new, all-local magazine show for them,” he recalled. The show, Evening Magazine, is still going strong a little more than two decades later.
Among a variety of shows he has helped manage, produce and create are Northwest Backroads, The Best of Western Washington, Gardening with Cisco and High School Sports Blintz, although his pride still rests with Evening Magazine. “At a time when all the other local stations were getting rid of local programming,” commented Cascio, “I was given the opportunity to develop a show that could compete with Friends, The Simpsons, and a slew of other high-budget syndicated shows. I’m proud of the program because we were able to tell great stories, keep the production level high and deliver every night on a very tight (local) budget.”
After nine years of working as executive producer for KING (NBC), Cascio became the director of programming, for which his duties included new program development, local and regional program production and network relations, among other things.
Since then, he has worked as a director of programming and creative services, vice president of programming and creative services and executive vice president for the Water Channel, and currently serves as vice president of content development for the company ETAGZ.
“He was a pleasure to work with,” said Judi Kritch, regional director of NBC affiliate relations for the West Coast, who worked with Cascio when he was head of programming and creative services at KING in Seattle.
“It was his job to give me a heads up when KING was going to be pre-empting NBC Network programming for any local programming he was scheduling,” she continued, “and he always tried to find solutions that worked for both of us.”
One of these solutions came at a time when the network was trying to get the program, Meet the Press, aired at a later time for the six months of the year when NBC sports wouldn’t affect it.
“Jay came up with a very workable solution for KING, NBC and the fans of Meet the Press,” Kritch remembered.
“One of the great things about working in television is that you have an opportunity to support many local charities and events,” Cascio said about his philanthropic experience.
KING-TV has a long-standing legacy of community involvement. Cascio said, “As the VP of programming/creative services, I made sure we maintained that commitment.” Some of the charity events he brought to the station include the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Home Team Harvest (NW Harvest), Northwest Response, (Disaster Relief: Red Cross) and Follow a Leader (Community Mentors).
In addition, he cultivated numerous community events, such as Washington Mutual’s Family Fourth, New Year's at the Needle, Macy’s Holiday Parade and the Westlake Tree-Lighting celebration.
Cascio has been awarded four NAPTE Iris Awards, two Telly Awards, two International Film Festival of New York Awards and two National Association of Broadcaster Awards, although none stands out for him as much as his record-breaking achievement.
“My most fun award,” concluded Cascio, “is my listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing the shortest commercial in the world.”
“When I developed Evening Magazine I found what a show producer did. In developing other local programming,” he continued, “I found out what an executive producer did. When I put KONG and NWCN on the air, I found out what a television vice president did.”
Cascio has many working years ahead of him, and one can only wonder what he will do next.