Once more with feeling: an appreciation and evaluation of WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos
03/07/14 09:01 AM
WFAA8’s barrier-breaking Gloria Campos will sign off Friday night. Photos: Ed Bark
By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Old enough to know the TV news business isn’t what it used to be and young enough to enjoy life after it, WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos is both fortunate and far-seeing to be leaving on her terms.
That’s not so easily done these days. Campos, winding up a nearly 30-year career at WFAA8 with Friday’s 10 p.m. newscast, has seen other D-FW “legacy” anchors get less than glowing send-offs.
“I want to be the master of my fate as much as I can be,” Campos said in one of our many interviews over the years. “I think that’s quite remarkable in this business.”
Indeed it is. NBC5’s longtime 10 p.m. duo of Mike Snyder and Jane McGarry was broken up piecemeal after both anchors were marginalized. Snyder got demoted before being cut loose. McGarry was facing the same fate before “resigning” after pleading no contest to a DWI charge and apologizing on her Facebook page.
Former WFAA8 stalwart Tracy Rowlett has been a non-person at the station since jumping to rival CBS11 in 1999. WFAA8’s extensive entrance lobby photo history has no images of the anchor whose historic partnership with Iola Johnson, the market’s first African-American anchor, led the station to national prominence and ratings riches. Johnson’s tenure didn’t end well either. She left at the height of her powers after a contract dispute.
Another famed WFAA8 anchor, the late Chip Moody, was fated to battle cancer and other attendant health problems for the last decade of his life. He intermittently made it back onto the air for brief periods of time. It’s the only thing that kept him going. But by that time many viewers were reacting to how he looked rather than what he said.
Obviously the stations aren’t always at fault in these situations. But it all goes to show how hard it can be to stick the landing. Campos, 59, has done it, though, leaving WFAA8’s last ratings stronghold after requesting to go part-time 18 months ago. She had been negotiating off and on with the station since 2008.
Under the terms of her final contract with WFAA8, Campos willingly relinquished the 6 p.m. newscast but stayed on the 10 p.m. edition with John McCaa. They’ve been a duo since August of 2002. And in the November “sweeps” ratings (February’s were skewed by NBC’s Olympics run-overs), WFAA8 won the late night news wars in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the key news demographic for advertisers.
WFAA8 has been feting Campos all this week via “30 Years with Gloria” segments during newscasts. It’s been buttered a little thickly at times, but Campos’ achievements are considerable as well as historic.
She joined WFAA8 in 1984 from Harlingen’s little KGBT-TV, where Campos co-anchored the station’s 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts while also producing the late night editions. In 1990 she became the first Hispanic of any gender to be permanent anchor of a weekday D-FW newscast. First came the 5 p.m. and then quickly the 6 p.m., which was a bigger deal then than it is now.
Being in television news “is all I’ve ever really wanted to do since I was in third grade,” Campos said. “I really didn’t have anchor aspirations at all, but of course it’s funny how things happened.”
Her husband, Lance Brown, a former sports anchor whom Campos met at KGBT, says the couple “never thought for a moment this would last . . . We just thought it would be great to have Dallas on our resumes after working in a small market. And then maybe go to Phoenix, San Diego or San Antonio. Gloria, however, was able to go through the ranks at WFAA to become the queen bee.”
Brown became a stay-at-home dad after twin sons Greg and Tony were born in 1993. By that time, Campos also had inherited the “Wednesday’s Child” mantle from former WFAA8 anchor John Criswell after he relocated to rival KDFW-TV (now billed as Fox4). These were very profitable times for both local television news stations and their most prominent anchors.
“Timing is everything,” Brown says. “And ‘Glo’ was fortunate to ride the wave in broadcasting when TV news became something stations found they could make big money with instead of just being a way to fulfill FCC (Federal Communications Commission) requirements for public service. She made an extraordinary amount of money. The first year we were married, we made a combined $17,000. But with diminishing ratings, those golden days are over.”
Campos became a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame in 2010. She’s also been a beacon and role model for the likes of WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez, anchor Shelly Slater and Cynthia Izaguirre, who on Monday, March 10th moves from WFAA8’s early morning Daybreak to join McCaa as co-anchor on the 10 p.m. editions. WFAA8 has been promoting the transition in a spot that ends with Izaguirre saying, “I love you, Glo.” And Campos replying, “I love you, too.”
“I want to thank Gloria for welcoming me with open arms six years ago,” Izaguirre said in earlier comments to unclebarky.com. “She has been a true friend and mentor. For that I am grateful. I want it to be clear that I am not her replacement because there is no replacement for Gloria. I am simply the new 10 p.m. co-anchor. Gloria is enormous shoes to fill and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
History is repeating itself in an uncanny way, though. Izaguirre also is the mother of twins, daughter Karina and son Simon. They’ll be two years old in April. And Izaguirre’s husband, Jeremy (who’s an architect), also will be a stay-at-home dad while Izaguirre, in her words, is “able to tackle my life-long professional goal.”
Transitions abound at WFAA8, which other than a continued strong performance at 10 p.m. is struggling in the four-way newscast ratings battles at 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. The station’s new 4 p.m. newscast, launched last fall, also has been slow to gain any traction opposite the more established editions on NBC5 and CBS11.
In a swirl of activity Monday, Izaguirre will debut as WFAA8’s full-time 10 p.m. anchor while also joining McCaa for the 5 p.m. editions. Slater will remain the 6 p.m. co-anchor, with McCaa still her partner. But her primary responsibility will now be as sole anchor of the 4 p.m. editions, which formerly were helmed by Jason Wheeler (moving back to weekend anchoring/weekday reporting duties) and Colleen Coyle, who’s also a staff meteorologist.
WFAA8 has posted the early morning anchor position being vacated by Izaguirre, but hasn’t decided yet on who will join incumbent Ron Corning. In the interim, it will be “a mix of folks,” news director Carolyn Mungo said in an email response Friday. ”But Alexa (early morning traffic reporter Alexa Conomos) will be scooting over a few chairs and co-anchoring while we figure things out.”
Amid all of this, there’s no question that Campos will be missed. This was not a case of WFAA8 downsizing her duties en route to eventually showing her the door. The station would have preferred that she stay aboard the 10 p.m. newscast rather than leave it in times of ratings prosperity. But Campos instead is writing her own ticket while leaving behind a track record of enduring success and refreshing candor when speaking to shleppers like your friendly content provider.
Campos, who’s also WFAA8’s most interesting Tweeter, has always been unafraid to speak her mind.
When Rowlett announced his decision to leave the station for CBS11, she was the only on-camera colleague who would speak on the record. His departure will leave “a big hole in my heart,” she said in April of 1999. “Because he is a very good partner and friend. He and I are very close, and he was basically hurt and insulted by the (contract) offers tendered to him at Channel 8.”
Contributing to a 2009 D CEO profile of McCaa, Campos remembered chafing when they initially were made to be part of a tri-anchor 10 p.m. team with former WFAA8 staffer Scott Sams. “We were saddled with Scott Sams for a while,” she said. “And to be brutally honest with you, I really kind of resented that. I felt like they didn’t have enough confidence in John and me to navigate this boat.”
She likewise spoke forthrightly In an interview with unclebarky.com tied to her decision to go part-time at WFAA8. “When I said I was going to Channel 8, “ Campos recalled, “someone asked me, ‘Why would you want to come here? They don’t like Mexicans in Dallas.’ But I don’t have control over that.”
Former Good Morning America anchor Joan Lunden had the right approach, Campos added. “Even if not everyone likes me, enough people like me. I’ve always felt the same way. I’ve never deluded myself that I’m everyone’s cup of tea.”
Campos has swerved a bit on whether she’ll ever anchor again at WFAA8. “If they need me, of course,” she told unclebarky.com. “But I know this for sure. I don’t ever want to work full time again, in the news business or any other business.”
She and her husband intend to “take a sabbatical” that includes spending time with her 88-year-old father and 82-year-old mother. Both are recovering from recent falls and “they’re not doing so good,” Campos said. There could be a “next chapter” of some sort at WFAA8. But it wouldn’t involve anchoring, Campos stresses.
“I’m not sure you’ve heard or seen the last of Gloria,” husband Lance says. “She won’t be doing flooring or foundation commercials (in the mode of former WFAA8 weather dean Troy Dungan). “Then again, if someone comes along with an offer she can’t refuse, who knows? Maybe she’ll be endorsing the new version of the thigh master or rapping the Trophy Nissan jingle or singing the Milestone Electric song.”
None of those are likely. But the Camposes do plan to sell their Dallas home (“taxes are pretty high and I’m a retiree now,” says Gloria), keep the one near Cedar Creek Lake and perhaps someday relocate to the Texas Hill Country.
Some news anchors, both local and national, just can’t stop breathing that rarefied on-air ether. They live to be on TV. Gloria Campos gives every indication that she’s perfectly capable of leaving it all behind. Life is worth living away from the camera, too. So while McCaa soldiers on after turning 60, his longtime leading lady quits while she’s ahead, looks ahead and leaves her considerable legacy untarnished. For her, it seems to be very much the right thing to do.
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