Florida’s Ann Bishop: Broadcasting legend great example of TV newsroom leadership

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By David BaxleySPJ South Carolina leadership and Assistant Professor of Mass Communication, Francis Marion University

WPLG south florida ABC newsAnn Bishop was a longtime journalist at WPLG in Miami, Florida. She joined the team in 1970, when women weren’t often accepted. Bishop was part of the anchor team that catapulted WPLG to #1 in the ratings for a decade beginning in the mid 80’s.

I first got a glimpse of Ann’s work when my aunt, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, sent me periodic video tapes (yes, VHS was the thing back then) in the early 90s. I was so interested in TV news, and it was like Christmas when a new VHS package came in the mail from my aunt.

She was just — Ann: someone South Florida respected as a journalist for more than 25 years.

Ann Bishop was different. As I watched, she never came across as one who wanted fame. She wanted to connect with viewers to tell the stories of South Florida. She seemed to be no-nonsense when it came to getting the story right. She didn’t wear revealing clothing to be noticed. She didn’t use outlandish or exaggerated words in her writing for ratings (the way consultants train reporters and anchors these days). She was just — Ann: someone South Florida respected as a journalist for more than 25 years.

Ann Bishop died of cancer in 1997.

I came across a clip of Ann Bishop on YouTube today. It’s remarkable how far we have changed as an industry. While TV reporters and anchors are still telling stories, I fear some in the business have lost that genuine commitment to journalism.

  • Are broadcast journalists today more worried about sex appeal and wanting to be seen instead of remembering why they got into broadcast news in the first place?
  • Are journalists at local broadcast stations still sincere in telling stories that impact our communities, like Ann Bishop?
  • Do journalists devote enough attention to stories that impact our lives rather than fluff stories that are just “cute”?
  • Are journalists today so engrossed in feeding the beast – delivering irrelevant photos of themselves with selfies on their TV social media accounts, providing viral videos of pointless subjects, worrying too much about likes and follows – that we’ve missed the point of journalism?
  • And is our democracy suffering from broadcast journalists’ inefficacious product of informing communities at the local level?
Ann Bishop
Ann Bishop, WPLG, Miami, Florida

Ann’s newsroom wouldn’t have been like that. You can have all the drone footage, Snapchat posts, and push alerts in the world, but unless you are producing QUALITY journalism – giving perspective to your community, your city, your state – I firmly believe you’re doing it all wrong. Technology may have changed. Social media is now a part of our lives. People are receiving news in different ways. But journalism’s core values of objectivity, being accountable, reporting with accuracy, seeking truth, providing diverse viewpoints and ethics have not changed.

As journalists work to build trust, we need more people leading newsrooms like Ann Bishop.

Watch this video of Ann Bishop of her thoughts about maturity in the newsroom before her death. Ann’s analysis is spot on:

David BaxleyDavid Baxley is Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, Francis Marion University, and the founder of the new SPJ South Carolina. (Watch for more news soon about SPJ South Carolina)  Baxley worked in broadcast news since 1999. He is also a meteorologist. Before entering academia in 2016, Baxley worked as an investigative producer at WIAT-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, for two years. Baxley is a regular contributor to the SPJ Region 3 website, SizingUpTheSouth.com.

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