They report the news every day, but sometimes Charleston’s television anchors and reporters became news themselves in 2005. Their high-profile positions give them the prominence that’s a key characteristic of what makes news, well, news. And the trend was by no means limited to Charleston. Reporters at many national media outlets were themselves at the center of dramatic news stories that unfolded over the course of 2005, from the departures of longtime anchors Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Ted Koppel to the arguably extralegal shenanigans of Robert Novak and Judith Miller, to self-flagellating media mea culpas over Iraqi WMD gullibility and the flap over anonymous news sources.
Here, then, is a purely subjective list of the top 10 local stories that made news (or should have) about Charleston TV and its reporters in 2005.
10. Call letter mnemonics. If nothing else, take from this list a bit of trivia: what the local station call letters stand for. WCSC: “Wonderful Charleston, South Carolina.” WCBD: C, B, and D stand for Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties. WCIV: IV, of course, is the Roman numeral for four, as in Channel 4.
9. No glass ceiling in Charleston. The Holy City is a lot more progressive than you may think. Two of the local station mangers are women (Rita O’Neill at Channel 5 and Suzanne Teagle at Channel 4) and two are African-American (O’Neill and Channel 2’s Richard Fordham).
8. Channel 5’s Keith Nichols sidelined by illness. I call him “The Voice” because his deep, rumbling pipes are the best on local TV. The P&C reported in October that Nichols has a serious illness, is no longer employed at 5 … and has a lawyer. Warren Peper, Mike Hiott, Andrea Ferguson, and now Keith Nichols — the old guard at 5, to quote Gen. Douglas McArthur, continue to “just fade away.”
7. Carolyn Murray becomes main anchor at Channel 2. It’s nice to see a local girl make it big in her hometown. Murray’s paid her dues and has earned her spot on all those billboards.
6. Darla Rourk quits at the top of her game. Murray’s ascension came when Channel 2 main anchor Rourk gave up the anchor chair for the stay-at-home mom chair.
5. Bill Walsh gets a look from ABC. The News Blues website, specializing in “tasty television news gossip,” recently had an item with a juicy local angle: apparently Channel 5 head meteorologist Bill Walsh auditioned for the weather gig on ABC’s Good Morning America.
4. Lowcountry Live debuts on Channel 4. WCIV takes a plunge into original weekday morning programming (10-11 a.m.) with local news and entertainment. The set design needs some work, and sometimes the advertorial angle is a little obvious, but the on-air trio of Ryan Nelson, Justin Lock, and Angela May is a keeper.
3. Jon Robinson gets the boot. WCBD brass cleared the way for you-know-who (see No. 1) to become main male anchor by pink-slipping the professional, personable Robinson. And then he’s immediately escorted out of the building. Shame on you, Media General!
2. The Stephens/Sossamon Tragedy. Nina Sossamon accidentally backs her car over the 11-month-old son of Channel 4 co-anchor Dean Stephens at Stephens’ house. Young Sam almost doesn’t make it, but the surgeries are successful and he’s expected to improve over time. Amazingly the Stephens/Sossamon anchor team survives, too.
1. “Pep’s” triumphant return. Dissed and dismissed by Channel 5, where he’d worked since the 1970s, local TV icon Warren Peper was rescued by Channel 2 from his between-jobs advertising and radio work. There was a huge outpouring of support for Peper in the community after WCSC let him go in August 2004. Like his co-anchor Carolyn Murray, Peper is from the Charleston area. You can’t help but pull for a true pro, and a survivor, like Pep in this rough and tumble business.
Patrick Harwood teaches broadcasting and other media courses at the College of Charleston.