By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Bob Lobel

A look back at when local TV newscasters were our biggest celebrities

A video clip of Liz Walker’s first newscast on WBZ-TV. Bob Lobel is at left.

For anyone under 40, or maybe 50, the idea that local television journalists used to be among our most prominent celebrities may sound unimaginable. Yes, today’s TV journalists are well known, but it’s a far cry from several decades ago.

This coming Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine takes us back to the 1980s, when WBZ-TV (Channel 4) had a five-member “dream team”: co-anchors Liz Walker and Jack Williams, weather forecaster Bruce Schwoegler, sports reporter Bob Lobel and entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik. Walker, Williams, Lobel, Kulhawik and Barbara Schwoegler, Bruce’s widow, take part in a wide-ranging conversation about what it meant to be local TV news stars some 40 years ago, and why that era ended. (Corporate greed, mostly.) Several of their contemporaries and successors are heard from, too.

Walker, who later became an ordained minister, was the first Black woman to anchor a local newscast in Boston, and — as she recalls — making the transition from her previous post in Little Rock, Arkansas, wasn’t easy:

Really, I had no idea. Boston is a tough city anyway, but in 1980 it was a tough city layered with all the racial implications. People were angry, people were traumatized, because they were still reeling from busing. We couldn’t go to Charlestown, they didn’t send us to Southie, because it was too explosive. You go to Roxbury, and they were just pissed at the media in general. There was no safe space.

The feature is tied in with WBZ’s 75th anniversary. As interesting as it is, I wish the Globe had acknowledged that WBZ was involved in a fierce rivalry during the 1980s with WCVB-TV (Channel 5), which had a dream team of its own: anchors Natalie Jacobson and Chet Curtis, who were married at the time, along with weather forecaster Dick Albert, sports reporter Mike Lynch and entertainment reporter Dixie Whatley. My friend Emily Rooney was assistant news director and, later, news director during those years.

The third network affiliate, Channel 7, which has had various call letters (it’s currently WHDH but is no longer a network affiliate), never established a similar identity, although it did unveil a high-powered anchor team of its own, Robin Young and Tom Ellis, in the 1980s.

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Is that all there is?

I’ll reserve judgment over the latest contretemps regarding Manny Ramírez. But I do want to flag an unsettling quote from Bob Lobel in Dan Shaughnessy’s column today.

It was Lobel, formerly of WBZ-TV (Channel 4), who took to WEEI Radio (AM 850) earlier in the week to report that Ramírez had (a) been fined six figures for shoving traveling secretary Jack McCormick and (b) infuriated management by taking three straight called strikes from Mariano Rivera to protest his punishment. Now Red Sox officials are denying it — especially (b).

Here’s Lobel talking to Shaughnessy:

I don’t think this is false information. It’s not something I’d make up. It didn’t come to me in a dream. I know it’s not in their best interests to talk about this, but I’m pretty confident with what I said.

Whoa. Lobel doesn’t think this is false information? Now, there’s a lofty standard. Given that Gordon Edes has reported the fine was about 10 percent of what Lobel claims, I think Lobel owes us more, although he obviously can’t out any anonymous sources he may have.

As for Manny looking at three straight pitches, I watched that game, and yes, it was disconcerting. But Ramírez had preceded that with some big-time loosening-up in the on-deck circle. If he were trying to send a message to management, you’d think he’d just kneel there, immobile.

I forget who the television analyst was, but his explanation that Manny was looking for a pitch in a specific location made sense to me. When Rivera is on, he’s not exactly easy to hit.

Sorry for the relative dearth of links. I’m having Internet problems today.

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