Gloria Campos' last day at WFAA is March 7, 2014. Leading up to her farewell, we're collecting Gloria's thoughts, images and special features here. Come back each day for the latest updates.
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3/3/2014: Four decades in TV news
In earlier blogs, you read how I was one of two women reporters in my first TV newsroom at KGBT-TV in Harlingen, Texas. I started there right after graduating from Southwest Texas State University with a BA degree in journalism, May 1976.
For most of my almost 40 years in television news, it's been pretty much me and the guys. Most of the reporters, studio camera crew, technical workers and engineers have all been male, until the 90s I'd say.
Now we see more women reporters graduating college and male reporters are becoming scarce. Women have definitely taken over the newsroom.
Those other departments, not so much.
When I was a cub reporter at KGBT-TV I was a photographer and video editor as well. I usually worked with a partner — I shot his story, he shot mine, and we would edit the video for our respective reports.
Those early days were rough. Some of the guys didn't like a woman invading their territory. Some feared I'd drop the camera and break it. One in particular pretty much bullied me. I'm happy to report he's been out of the TV news business for years.
I am so lucky that all of my bosses, the news directors (all men until just two years ago when WFAA-TV hired its first female news director, Carolyn Mungo), treated me fairly and helped guide me through the rough spots. I will always appreciate their support and I will never forget them.
Once I moved into the anchor chair, pretty early in my career, it was a different story. I love the fellowship with the crew and my fellow anchors. On most nights for most of my 40 years in TV news, it's been me and the guys. Our crew works so hard day in and day out to make those of us who get all the glory, look good. I will probably miss them the most when I leave this place.
Since I married the sports director at KGBT-TV Lance Brown in 1977, I quickly took an interest in sports. You know I love baseball; I've been a Rangers fan since I moved to North Texas in 1984.
I love the Cowboys, Mavs and Stars, too. I make no apologies, I'm a homer. As a once long-suffering Rangers fan (glad they are doing well now), it really hurts to see our Cowboys struggle seemingly year after year.
I was fortunate that the station asked me to be part of the team sent to cover Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Arizona, where the "triplets" — Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin — led the team to victory against the Denver Broncos.
I think my love of sports has helped me deal with the OTHER big white guy in my life, Dale Hansen.
People often ask me about my co-workers — especially Dale, John and Pete, of course. I think the "secret" behind our team chemistry is that we are all pretty much the same on and off camera. What you see is what you get.
John is smart, thoughtful, and, I believe, the conscience of our newsroom.
Dale is brash, opinionated and there is no one like him anchoring sports — he is simply the best.
Pete is like Dale's younger brother, and their banter is genuine. Pete knows his stuff, and he's tireless on the air, especially during severe weather coverage.
I respect these guys so much, I would tell them personally... but at LEAST one of them would get a big head (GUESS who?)
I am very proud of what we have accomplished on News 8 at 10 p.m. They are a great bunch of guys, I love and will miss them.
I also have great memories of working with Tracy Rowlett, Troy Dungan and Chip Moody. They all taught me so much about the news business.
Tracy is the consummate journalist, was a great teacher and friend.
Troy Dungan, so smooth and easy to watch, is also a friend and mentor.
Chip... well, Chip would expect me to say glowing things about him. What can I say? I have never worked with anyone who loved his job as much as he did. I miss his laugh and smile.
My husband likes to say that my career skyrocketed after working with Chip. I don't know if that's true, but Chip certainly knew himself and his strengths. Chip was a people person — always ready to meet and greet viewers. He taught me there's more to this job than reporting... it's relating to our audience in a personal way.
I bet there are more folks walking around with Chip Moody autograph cards than any other anchor in North Texas, and he's been gone now many years.
Being a news anchor at WFAA-TV — a station with a long and distinguished history sparked by the great Marty Haag, the news director who hired John, Dale, me, Tracy, Troy and Chip — is like being quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, I like to say. People expect a lot from you; they expect you to be at the top of your game, a professional, and they want to see you out and about in community.
I continue to take that very seriously. We try to earn our viewers' trust and loyalty every day. Viewers expect the best, and they deserve it from us.
I am so very proud to say I worked at Channel 8 News for almost 30 years. It's one of the best — if not THE best — local TV stations in the country. I know that legacy will continue long after I'm gone.
3/2/2014: My greatest accomplishment
As I reflect on almost 40 years in TV news, almost thirty of those years at Channel 8, I've had time to think of things I've never really considered.
I was recently asked, "What is your greatest accomplishment?" I think of my children, twin sons Greg and Tony as my greatest production and I'm very proud of my sons. But I hadn't really thought about my greatest career accomplishment.
You might be surprised to know what I consider my greatest career achievement because it doesn't have anything to do with news awards or recognitions. My job earnings gave me the opportunity to give back in a way I never thought possible. I had a middle class upbringing. I certainly didn't expect to earn big bucks.
I have given my time and money to many charities- most centering on education, women or children's issues. Because of my success in broadcast news as a Latina — when early on there were precious few in this business-I decided to make it my mission to help, mentor and support the dreams of young people of color--in particular Latinos. Don't get me wrong when any student calls to interview me for a report or asks to visit the station, I do all in my power to make that happen. But Latinos continue to lag behind in high school and college graduation rates. The growing Hispanic population make these shortfalls hard to ignore. It's something successful Latinos like myself must tackle before we can expect help from anyone else. Therefore I've been a supporter of scholarships through the DFW Network of Hispanic Communicators, LULAC, the Press Club of Dallas and established my own endowed scholarship in the Department of Mass Communications at my alma mater, Texas State University San Marcos.
As I said in a prior blog, I believe every child should be loved and wanted. After preparing Wednesday's Child reports for almost 20 years, I've learned the harsh truth- that is not always the case. I've learned there are some people who should never be parents. These children didn't ask to be born so once they are here it's society's duty to help them become productive adults. It's in our best interests. I also don't think it's the government's role entirely to make that happen. That's why I'm proud to support non-profits such as Friends of Wednesday's Child wedchild.org which is celebrating 30 years of offering hope and healing to thousands of children in foster care in North Texas.
Other organizations are doing great work: Promisehouse.org, Family Compass, CitySquare's TRAC program (Transitional Resource Assistance Center) and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to name just a few.
Preparing Wednesday's Child reports for all those years made me very aware of the plight of abused and neglected children — and that led me to serve many years on the board of directors of the Family Place — which provides counseling and shelter to abused women (and now a few men) and their children. I am encouraged by the amount of attention domestic violence is getting in our news reports. But talking about the problem won't make it go away, I believe those of us living in healthy, loving families have a lot to offer families in crisis. We must step up to stop this contagion spreading like poison throughout our community. Domestic violence isn't a private problem, though many would like to keep it that way, it has the potential to affect us all directly and indirectly.
As a new retiree, I won't have the funds I used to have to help these fine organizations, but I will have more time and in the coming months you will see me take a more prominent role in these and related issues. North Texas has been mighty good to me and my family, I intend to keep on giving back when and where I can. I believe the real getting is in giving.
But first I plan to give my family including my elderly parents the time they've missed while I pursued my dreams. Dreams that have largely been realized thanks to our loyal viewers and for that I say, Thank you with all my heart.
02/28/2014: Stories that mattered to me
The first major story I remember covering here at Channel 8 was the crash of Delta 191 at D/FW International Airport. It was the biggest story I have ever covered, and still is.
After the airport reopened, I was sent there to meet some of the flights that would certainly be carrying family of the crash victims. I remember being so afraid of approaching these people at this terrible dark time, and even more frightened of saying the wrong thing to them. Luckily, something happened (I don’t remember what) and I ended up not having to approach the grieving relatives. I was so relieved.
After going over some of what I consider career highlights, including inaugurations, interviewing President and Mrs. Bush, events such as parades, the Super Bowl, political conventions, and our special programming such as our JFK 50th anniversary coverage and the dedication of the Bush Presidential Center, I realize that what I enjoyed the most was doing “special events.” I like to study, prepare and learn, complete the assignment and then move on to the next project.
The thing I remember most about my April 2001 interview with First Lady Laura Bush in the map room of the White House was how at ease she seemed in her new role. Then, the president walked in and gave me a big hello hug I was taken aback -- I had known him before, and even shared a meal with him and Mrs. Bush at the Ballpark, but here he was now, President of the United States.
President Bush then asked if I would like to see the Oval Office, of course I said yes, but he wouldn’t allow our video camera. So I followed him in there and he showed me around and shared the significance of the items he and the First Lady had chosen to fill the room.
I was in awestruck. Here I was, a small town Texas girl standing in the seat of world power with the most powerful man in the world.
Later, as I thought over what had happened to me, I started to tear up. In my eyes, that little visit symbolized what is great about our country. If I wasn’t a reporter, I would have probably never met George W. Bush. As the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, I certainly felt - especially at this very moment - that the U.S.A. is indeed the greatest country on earth.
One more thing about President Bush, he was so kind. He offered to sign autographs for my twin sons, Greg and Tony, who would have been about seven at the time. The autographs (on presidential stationery) are framed and on display in my home. I do not care to debate politics, but I can tell you this I believe No. 43 and Laura Bush are good people who continue to work to make our country a better place to live for all citizens.
I know most viewers identify me as the “Wednesday’s Child" reporter, and doing these stories about abused and neglected children had a profound impact on me personally.
I was not a parent myself yet when I started doing these reports in the late 80s. It was my hope to help the children we profiled find adoptive homes. I believe every child should be loved and wanted. It was a bittersweet assignment. I wanted to do right by these children, who had been so wronged, but their stories would break my heart.
It seemed later on, that whenever I got to feeling I couldn’t bear to hear another story of cruelty and pain, I would meet the brightest, sweetest, most hopeful child. Their bravery gave me the strength to keep on working on their behalf.
Throughout the years, I must have interviewed and profiled hundreds of children. I was once told that almost 70 percent of the children we profiled found forever homes. But I always wonder if I could have done more for those who did not.
I can say this for sure: After 20 years of meeting extraordinary children who had been to hell and back, whose only crime was being born to the wrong parents, they gave much more to me than I could have ever given them.
They made me a better parent by teaching me that what children really need in life (besides food, shelter and love) is stability and structure in their lives.
02/27/2014: How I found my home at WFAA as a Latina anchor
Many of our viewers have grown so used to watching John and I co-anchor the news that they don't recognize the significance of an African American man and Latina working together to front the most important newscast of the day.
I certainly didn't think it would happen, and if you ask John, I think he'd say the same.
John and I were hired the same year, just a few months apart in the summer of 1984.
I remember those early days so well because they were frightening and exciting at the same time. I feel much the same today on retirement, but that's another story.
I grew up in South Texas, and after college returned to work in my hometown at KGBT-TV in Harlingen. I started there in 1974 as a paid summer intern where I actually got to report on air. I can tell you that Channel 8 interns don’t do that.
Weeks after graduation, in May of 1976, I started working full time at KGBT.
I started as a reporter/photographer/editor at the station, where it was very tough being one of two female reporters on staff. Some of the male reporters just weren't ready for women to invade their territory.
Thanks to wonderful male bosses, I got past this rough spot to work my way up. And in the summer of 1984, I was co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. while also producing the later broadcast.
When it became apparent to me that I had gotten as far as I could go I started looking for a new job in Dallas-Fort Worth. I made several trips to Dallas (even honeymooned here; hey we were poor!).
Since I worked for a CBS affiliate in the Valley, I usually watched KDFW-TV in D-FW. At the time, the team was my future co-anchor Chip Moody and the ageless Clarice Tinsley. I admired them very much and even called Clarice once for advice. She was very gracious and took my call.
There wasn’t a job opportunity at KDFW so I checked in with Channel 5. I even had what I thought was a great interview and was certain I snared the job. But, shortly thereafter, the news director was fired and my job opportunity went up in smoke.
It wasn’t long after that a WFAA-TV news crew came to our station. We were CBS, not ABC, but they came to our station because we were number one.
A photographer and Mizzou graduate met my husband Lance, also a Mizzou alum and a sports director anchor, and told him there was a reporter job opening at WFAA-TV. I sent a tape of my reports from the 1984 Democratic convention in San Francisco and soon I was at WFAA-TV interviewing for a job with the legendary Marty Haag, the man credited with getting WFAA-TV on the map of local TV stations. He was one of the big names in the broadcast news business. Marty hired me as a reporter and to host the Hispanic public affairs show called “Nuestro Dia.”
I remember a station consultant taking me to lunch and asking me, "Why do you want to come to Dallas? They don't like Mexicans here.” By the way, my parents and I were born in the United States. I’ve always thought viewers will either like me or not and I can't really control how they look at me. All I can do is do my best and let the chips fall where they may.
I didn't let her words discourage me, nor was I discouraged when the great Marty Haag told me that he saw me more as a reporter than an anchor. I thought to myself, "I'll stay in Dallas, learn as much as I can and move on to perhaps anchor in a mid-market somewhere in the Southwest."
A year or two later when I started anchoring here, a writer for D Magazine called me a "quota system" hire. That may have been the truth. Being a Latina no doubt let me get my foot in the door, but I stayed here and prospered thanks to hard work, great co-workers and an almost immediate acceptance by our viewers.
There weren't many women or minorities on air at Channel 8 at that time and so many times I felt overwhelmed and lonely. I thought of myself as a "Lone Wolf.” A Latina reporter? I was the only one.
In those early years, I had other opportunities including two network offers. As a young idealistic student, I dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent, but after an assignment in El Salvador and a bout with amoebic dysentery in the early 80s, I cast aside that idea.
I had found my niche, a place to grow as a woman, journalist and citizen. I was determined to give back as much as I could to the community that would become my home, North Texas. I’m still trying to repay all the blessings that have befallen my family and I since I came here as a little fish in a big sea so long ago.