Over the course of her career, Marla Drutz has been at the epicenter of fast-paced, high-intensity TV news operations at stations in Cleveland and Detroit.
For the last four decades, if a story led our local newscasts on WDIV-TV Local 4, you can bet Marla Drutz was among those who knew about it first. She’s had what she describes as a “front row, 50-yard-line-seat” to daily news events and history in the making. Now, the vice president and general manager of Detroit’s NBC affiliate is retiring after holding the station’s top job for 13 years. Her last day was in mid-November.
“I’ve become very much in awe of the coverage,” she says. “So much work goes into putting together a product that’s fair and accurate. It’s been a phenomenal ride. I don’t think I could have asked for a better career. It’s been the honor of my life.”
Over the course of her career, Drutz has been at the epicenter of fast-paced, high-intensity TV news operations at stations in Cleveland and Detroit. She’s played an integral role in research, programming and TV station management — making critical decisions about what and who you see on the air. It’s unusual for a woman, let alone a Jewish woman, to serve as a TV station general manager. Drutz has led the way with grace and ease.
“Marla is a dynamic local broadcaster who loves, eats and breathes everything about serving a local market,” Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group, WDIV’s parent company, said in published reports. “She consistently demonstrates a keen ability to … create engaging news and local programming and increase revenue while leading a management team dedicated to growing ratings and upholding the highest standards of journalistic integrity.”
Drutz grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, but Ohio was the launching pad for her career. She graduated from Ohio University and pursued a master’s degree at what is now Cleveland State. As she was approaching graduation, the school’s placement office helped her land an entry-level job as a research analyst at WJKW-TV (now known as WJW-TV). That’s where she met the first of what she calls her “patron menschen,” the station’s general manager Bill Flynn.
“He took me in, he schooled me, he explained the industry to me and made sure to connect me with people at the station who could teach me,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to have people who have been so gracious and kind to me, and I’ve tried to pass it on. I feel I have an obligation to pay it forward.”
In 1984, when Flynn got transferred to WJBK-TV (now Fox 2 News) in Detroit, he brought along some of his all-star team members and that included Marla. Her then-
boyfriend (now long-time husband) Ron Kaplovitz came along with her, and they built a life together in the Motor City, joining Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield and raising a son who attended Hillel Day School.
“There’s no greater hospitality than Midwestern hospitality — especially among the Jewish community,” she says. “That made it easy for us to fall in love with Metro Detroit.”
Drutz worked as research director and marketing director for WJBK then became research and program director for Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ. After 20 years there, Channel 4 came calling with an offer she couldn’t refuse — the opportunity to lead a station, something she’d always wanted to do. Drutz has received many honors for her work including Emmy Awards and being named Broadcasting & Cable’s General Manager of the Year. A multiplication buff, she figures she’s driven to and from work at least 20,000 times — even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — when she went to work every day to be alongside her team.
To celebrate her trailblazing, fearless and compassionate leadership, Channel 4 recently threw a retirement party for Drutz in a tent outside the station featuring an appearance by the Detroit Youth Choir of America’s Got Talent fame. She says she and her husband plan to stay in Detroit but will likely spend winters in a warmer climate. The next chapter of her career will focus on nonprofit work.
“I have a strong desire to give back to the community, particularly helping Detroit-area organizations,” she said. “This is a part of my life I’m really looking forward to.”