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We caught up with some familiar faces from local television airwaves.
Courtesy of Len Besthoff
WDBJ reporters Len Besthoff (from left), Joe Dashiell, and photographer Scott Ayres at the WDBJ station on Colonial Avenue in the mid-1990s.
Courtesy John Kernan
Former WDBJ sports anchor John Kernan.
Courtesy of Barbara Gibbs
Barbara Gibbs was the WSLS co-anchor from 1998 to 2000.
Courtesy of Patrick Evans
Patrick Evans was a Channel 7 meteorologist and field reporter from 1990 to 2000.
Courtesy of WDBJ7
Ann Compton in late 1969 or 1970.
Courtesy of Bill Meck
Bill Meck and Willard Scott at the Salem Christmas Fair in the early 1990s.
President Barack Obama presents reporter Ann Compton with a cupcake aboard Air Force One in September in recognition of her 40 years at ABC.
Jon D. Garcia/ABC News
Ann Compton rides a hydrofoil at the G20 summit earlier this month in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Roanoke Times | File 2011
Keith Humphry retired from Channel 7 and now teaches a broadcast media course at Hollins University.
The Roanoke Times | File 2011
Keith Humphry spent 30 years as the lead anchor for Channel 7.
Teresa Hamilton Hall
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Ann Compton remembers the first day she set foot in the WDBJ-TV studio, some 45 years ago. She was a junior at Hollins College when she accepted a monthlong internship at the station on Colonial Avenue.
The wide-eyed college student was fascinated by the bustling newsroom at the end of the hall, and within moments she was hooked.
Compton, 66 ("and not ready to retire," she said), is now a senior ABC News White House correspondent. She primarily reports for ABC’s radio programming, but writes for ABCNews.com and broadcasts on TV as well. Since leaving WDBJ (Channel 7) 40 years ago, she has covered seven presidents.
“I don’t count the night as a Channel 7 reporter that I covered President Nixon’s evening rally at the civic center,” Compton said, referring to his October 28, 1969, campaign event for Linwood Holton at what is now the Salem Civic Center.
Before she finished her senior year at Hollins in 1969, the general manager of television operations at WDBJ, John Harkrader, called her dorm and offered her a job.
“$100 a week!” Compton said. “At that instant, I like to say, the ink began to flow through my veins.”
Compton was WDBJ’s first female reporter. She began covering the General Assembly, and when Holton — a Roanoke attorney — was elected governor, the station moved her to Richmond to establish a bureau and cover the Capitol year-round.
In Richmond, Compton honed the art of political reporting, learning from the likes of Roanoke Times politico Melville ‘Buster’ Carico, who Compton recalled as “perhaps the greatest influence” on her.
After four years at WDBJ, Compton left for a job in New York City with ABC. She was there a little more than a year before the network moved her to Washington, D.C.
Compton’s first day at the White House was December 2, 1975. Since then, she’s covered everything from Gorbachev to Gore, from Clinton to Korea. Despite having been to all 50 states, she fondly recalls the hilltop home in which she lived off Williamson Road in Roanoke County.
“The beauty of the mountains will stay with me forever,” she said. “I still have people come up to me at a rope line at a presidential rally and say, ‘I watched you grow up on TV.’”
It’s the personal stories she covered here that Compton said are the most memorable, like covering the devastating flooding from Hurricane Camille in August 1969.
“I really do call that area home.”
More familiar faces:
Len Besthoff, 47
Then: Business, investigative and general assignment reporter at WDBJ from 1991 to 1997
Now: General assignment and investigative reporter for WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn., since 2002; Hartford bureau chief since 2010
“I look back fondly on my time in Roanoke, and would certainly go back someday. It is where I cut my teeth as an investigative reporter, and I enjoyed shaping the business news franchise we had at the time. Beyond getting married in Floyd, and our first child being born in Roanoke, my favorite news stories include the investigative one about Norfolk Southern’s lack of onboard bathrooms for employees that inspired the song ‘Poo Poo Train!’ by the Q-99 crew, and breaking the story about Dominion Bank being taken over.”
Patrick Evans, 46
Then: Channel 7 meteorologist and field reporter from 1990 to 2000
Now: Chief meteorologist at CBS Local 2 in Palm Springs, Calif.
“Robin Reed was an excellent mentor in weather, and it truly shaped the broadcaster I am today. Working at WDBJ gave me the tools to succeed in this hard biz, and I credit my decade at WDBJ for the fact that I continue to enjoy a career in television.”
Teresa Hamilton Hall, 44
Then: Reporter, weekend anchor and bureau chief for WDBJ’s Danville and Blacksburg offices from 1994 to 2003
Now: Spokeswoman for Appalachian Power Co. since April, after leaving Roanoke County as their primary spokeswoman from 2003 to 2013
“There is no question the years I spent as a news reporter helped shape my current career in public relations. As a former reporter, I know the value and good will that is generated by issuing timely and thorough responses to requests for information. Reporters and the public know when information isn’t complete or a person is dodging follow-up phone calls. While in the media, I found the most respected public information and communications professionals were the ones who were willing to simply admit if they didn’t know an answer to a question or who took the time to explain why they couldn’t release certain information.”
Keith Humphry, 64
Then: Reporter at Channel 7 from 1980 to 2011; spent 30 years as the lead anchor
Now: Retired, teaching a broadcast media course at Hollins University. “Other than that, I’ve been fixing up the house and reading a lot,” Humphry said.
“When I first signed on to anchor and report the news in Roanoke, I never expected I’d be assigned overseas (twice), be TASERed by a local sheriff’s deputy (just to know what it was like), visit more than one inmate on death row, attend a Hollywood movie premiere, or save a woman’s life. I’ve come to enjoy the recognition that comes from 30 years on the air. I truly appreciate the generosity of those who stop to say, ‘We miss seeing you on the news.’ That feels good.”
John Kernan, 54
Then: Sports director and anchor at WDBJ from 1983 to 1992
Now: Drag racing commentator/reporter for ESPN; runs racing website rpm2night.com
“I moved to Roanoke from Missouri and the folks around town were always extremely nice to me. In fact, to this day when I run into someone from the area while I’m at a race, it’s not unusual for them to come up and say hello. They all believe that I am a Roanoke native and that’s how they always treated me, which is very gratifying.”
Natasha Ryan, 33
Then: Channel 7 anchor from 2006 to 2011
Now: Freelance reporter and substitute anchor for KING 5 in Seattle, Wash.
“I really enjoyed the fact that I had an entire community of support. It wasn’t just ‘Oh, I recognize that girl from TV.’ I would go to Walmart and people would be just genuinely so sweet, and I think it’s that Southern hospitality mixed in with you coming into their homes every night. I miss Roanoke every day, more than I ever thought I would. WDBJ was a family to me. Robin [Reed] was like a second dad to me. I really miss eating at Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles and running on the greenway.”
Mike Stevens, 52
Then: Sports reporter, anchor and sports director at WDBJ from 1985 to 2008
Now: Communications director for the city of Salem
“I think I connected to the viewers in Southwest Virginia because I grew up in Staunton and shared many of the same values and interests that they had. Jim Shaver, the man who hired me at WDBJ, taught me that athletic events aren’t about two teams, but rather they are about two communities. That means the band and the guy selling the hot dogs are just as important to the story as the players.”
(formerly Jane Karlen), 50
Then: Channel 7 reporter and anchor from 1985 to 1991; first female 6 p.m. co-anchor
Now: Owns a contracting and design firm in Port Washington, N.Y.
Chuck Bell (age unavailable)
Then: Chief meteorologist at WSLS (Channel 10) from 1995 to 1998
Now: Weekend meteorologist with NBC4 in Washington, D.C. since 2004
Lee Ann Necessary Brownlee (age unavailable)
Then: Anchor at Channel 10 from 1995 to 1997, and again from 2000 to 2003
Now: Lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, John Brownlee, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. Serves on the board of the Children’s Science Center in Herndon.
Greg Roberts, 50
Then: WSLS sports director and anchor from 1987 to 2000
Now: Media consultant; hosts “Greg Roberts Live,” a sports talk radio show, on WFIR (960 AM/107.3 FM) since 2007
“My father used to say, ‘Son, find something you love to do and you’ll never a work a day in your life.’ I’m one of the fortunate ones that’s been able to do that. This market and this town and this area — it’s been just great to me. I just love what I do. I’m a passionate guy. I’ve been called bombastic, full of it, a ham, and a lot of other things that you might not interpret as compliments, but all I hear is passion, passion, passion. And a blowhard, don’t forget that.”
Justin Ditmore, 44
Then: Sports reporter and anchor at Channel 10 from 1991 to 2006
Now: Occasional host on Greg Roberts’ WFIR show since 2007; financial services representative for National Financial Services in Roanoke since 2008
“It was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change anything. A lot of great experiences. I got to go places that most people would kill to go to. National championship games, Daytona 500 ... I met Lance Armstrong years before the big mess with the Tour de France and the blood doping he did. People ask me if I ever miss TV. I miss the people. I don’t miss the hours.”
Marc Lamarre (age unavailable)
Then: WSLS meteorologist from 1998 to 2006, perhaps best known for being part of a heroin scandal involving colleague Jamey Singleton, who now works at WSET (Channel 13).
Now: Lives in Brunswick, Maine. Lamarre did not return requests for comment.
Bill Meck (age unavailable)
Then: Chief meteorologist at Channel 10 from 1992 to 1995
Now: Chief meteorologist at WLEX in Lexington, Ky.
“I still get an occasional email from somebody in Southwest Virginia. My wife and I truly loved living in Roanoke and we still look back fondly on that all-too short time in our lives. In terms of my time there, the greatest memory would have been saying on the air before the Blizzard of ’93, ‘If you go out, you will die.’ We hit that forecast from three days out, and that’s when we started to get some credibility and traction there against [W]DBJ. I do also miss riding bikes with John Carlin up to the [Mill Mountain] Star.”
Barbara Gibbs (age unavailable)
Then: WSLS co-anchor from 1998 to 2000
Now: Co-anchor at WTVD (ABC11) in Raleigh, N.C.
“When I think of my brief time in Roanoke, what stands out the most is the people. I met the most wonderful, down-to-earth people and was part of a fantastic church family at Church of the Holy Spirit. I learned a lot about myself and how to face the highs and lows of a high-profile job. Perhaps the most important take-away from my experience in Roanoke: I made lifelong friends. For that, I will always be grateful.”
Jay Warren, 41
Then: Senior political reporter and anchor at Channel 10 from 1998 to 2013
Now: Marketing communications manager for the city of Arlington, Texas
“I loved every minute in Roanoke. It is a wonderful community full of people that opened their homes to me and the WSLS team every night. My experiences there have already served me well in my new role in Arlington, although it’s a little different being on the other side of reporter questions.”
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday