Mistaken identity is old news for anchor

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Posted by madcityradio.com on September 06, 2009 at 11:56:27:

Mistaken identity is old news for anchor

by Doug Moe | Posted: Thursday, September 3, 2009 3:50 pm

It happened again last week.

Somebody called the newsroom at NBC-15 and suggested the station might want to cover John Stofflet, who was going to be speaking out against health care reform at a town hall-style meeting in Middleton.

Stofflet, who is the 6 and 10 o'clock anchor on NBC-15, does not speak out publicly on issues he might be covering.

It was a bit odd for someone to call his station and suggest they cover a speech he wasn't making.

It was odder still when Stofflet got an e-mail from a relative who said a co-worker had told her Stofflet was speaking out on health care reform.

It was odd, but Stofflet suspected what was up.

"I knew he must be coming to town," Stofflet was recalling Thursday.

Sure enough, John Stossel, author and longtime ABC news correspondent and commentator, spoke at the Middleton event last week.

John Stofflet has spent more than two decades explaining to people that he is not John Stossel.

"I'm not the one with the black mustache," Stofflet said.

It started back in the 1980s, during Stofflet's first run on Madison television.

Originally from the Lake Geneva area, Stofflet moved around as a kid - his dad was a superintendent of schools - eventually landing in Middleton. He then attended UW-Madison and graduated with a journalism degree.

In 1983, Stofflet, now 48, began working for Ch. 27, Madison's ABC affiliate.

At one point, Stofflet said, he needed to call ABC in New York. When he did, and identified himself, he was switched to a network producer.

The producer had a thick New York accent. "Stossel?" he said. "What the hell are you doing in Wisconsin?"

"I work here," Stofflet said.

It finally dawned on him that the producer had mistaken him for Stossel, the star ABC correspondent. Stofflet sought to dispel the confusion.

"He was so excited to be talking to Stossel," Stofflet said. "Then so disappointed to be talking to me."

In 1988, Stofflet took a job with KING-TV in Seattle, working as a host for the show "Evening Magazine."

He recalls it as a great gig that enabled him to conduct celebrity interviews and, especially, travel the world. He went to six continents and then made it all seven when he did some freelance work in Antarctica for the National Geographic Channel.

But the specter of John Stossel still haunted him.

"My nickname in the newsroom in Seattle was 'Stossel,'" Stofflet said.

He returned to Madison, to Ch. 15, in 2003. He has enjoyed reconnecting to the city, but still never knows when "Stossel" might surface.

"I was giving a speech and a woman told me she was looking forward to my book coming out," Stofflet said. "I haven't written a book."

John Stossel writes books.

I told Stofflet that I fell victim to a similar confusion several years ago when a publicist sent me a note saying that Bill Geist would be narrating a piece on CBS's "Sunday Morning" on Channel 3. It was about the famous mail boat on Lake Geneva and I figured she was talking about Bill Geist, the former Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau guy. Wrong Bill Geist. After that item ran I heard from various relatives of Bill Geist, the CBS correspondent, who were quick to correct me.

I have an even more personal example. I have sometimes been confused with Doug Moe, who was a basketball coach in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets. Moe continued to work with the team when he was done coaching.

A few years ago I called the Nuggets and asked to talk to Doug Moe.

"Who's calling?" the receptionist said.

"Doug Moe," I said.

She was silent for a moment, then said, "He's not in."

"Please ask Doug Moe to call Doug Moe," I said.

For some reason, he didn't.

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