TONIGHT AT TEN
By Gloria Campos, veteran news anchor, WFAA-TV, Dallas
Introduction: The Stories behind the Stories
Chapter 1 - We Can’t, We’re Broke
Steve’s first job in the news business may have been at the worst television station in the country. To those who worked at WCWB, the call letters meant “We can’t we’re broke” or “Why compete, we’re beat.”
Chapter 2 - The Long Road to Texas
Steve’s broadcasting journey took him through the corn fields of Nebraska, the mountains of North Carolina and the desert of El Paso before he landed a job at a television station in Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the top television markets in the country. He shares the stories of his rise from small to major market television.
Chapter 3 - 52 hours in a hole
The entire world watched and waited. Jessica McClure became “everyone’s baby.” Steve was at the scene when rescue workers pulled little Jessica out of a Midland, Texas well after spending 52 hours stuck in a narrow, cramped shaft. Steve spent most of those hours with a photographer perched on a tall ladder overlooking the well. After Jessica was rescued, he spent a week in Midland doing follow-up stories. In a rush to get to Midland, his only clothes were what he was wearing.
Chapter 4 - Horror in a Boxcar
29 people bound for Dallas suffocated in a boxcar in the West Texas desert. They crossed the border illegally with the help of a smuggler. Steve covered the horrific tragedy and then traveled to the small Central Mexico town where most of them came from. It had a powerful impact on Steve, shaping his perception regarding the controversial illegal immigration issue.
Chapter 5 - The Subterranean Little Troll
In closing arguments, a Collin County prosecutor called Michael Blair, a convicted sex offender, a “subterranean troll” who killed 7 year old Ashley Estell of Plano, Texas. Steve covered Ashley’s disappearance, the search to find her, the discovery of her body, the arrest of Michael Blair and Blair’s trial, which was moved to Midland, Texas. He interviewed Blair twice on Texas death row, creating some very uncomfortable, awkward and bizarre moments.
Chapter 6 – The Amazing Jimmy D and Katy
Steve calls Jim Dunlap, aka “Jimmy D,” one of the most amazing people he ever met, and one of his best sources for stories. The iconic teacher taught generations of school children with the help of a 180 pound teaching tool, a huge python named Katy. Katy was at the center of several of Steve’s most memorable news stories.
Chapter 7 - Big Rockin’ Daddy Meets the King
This is Steve’s favorite story ever. A terminal cancer patient, Gary Blakey, aka “Big Rockin’ Daddy,” had one last wish before his death. He wanted to meet Blues legend B.B. King. Gary’s mother arranged for the meeting in Cleveland, but it never happened. So she called Steve, who was so moved by Gary’s story, he helped make the singer’s last wish come to fruition.
Chapter 8 - I’ve Got what?
Steve never saw it coming. His doctors diagnosed him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer of the lymph system. The timing couldn’t have been worse. His wife, Susan, was eight months pregnant with their second child. KDFW-TV Fox 4 Medical Reporter asked Steve if he would be willing to be the focus of a series of news stories called “The Cancer Chronicles”. John would follow Steve on his journey battling cancer, from the day he was diagnosed, through treatment, to whatever the outcome. Steve agreed to do it. As a result, hundreds of local television news viewers become an important part of his support team.
Chapter 9 - The Letter
Steve received hundreds of heartfelt letters from viewers, offering their support in his cancer fight. Many came from cancer survivors and prayer groups. One came from an inmate at a Texas prison. But only one of those letters evoked a response from Steve like none other. That letter accused him of not having faith. A surprise exchange takes place when Steve decided to confront the letter’s author.
Chapter 10 - One Big Lie
Steve receives a tip about a wonderful story: A Marine Corps Reservist is called to active duty to serve in Afghanistan. But on the same day he reports for active duty, his wife is due to give birth. Months later, the truth emerges. His service overseas and return as a hero was all one big lie. Steve explains why this one story affected his trust and faith in humanity.
Chapter 11 - The Dean of Death Row
Robert Excel White stayed on death row for 25 years, longer than any other inmate in Texas history. Steve witnessed White’s execution, after spending years covering the story. Appearing at a national death penalty forum covered by CSPAN, Steve opened up with the public by sharing his personal account of the execution and his reaction. It evoked angry responses from across the country.
Chapter 12 - What a Disaster
Imagine driving on an interstate toward an approaching powerful hurricane as a long line of traffic is evacuating in the opposite direction, or covering a major earthquake as hundreds of aftershocks rumble the area. Steve shares his experiences covering tornados, ice storms, gas explosions, wild fires, floods, droughts, oil spills and a major earthquake that never happened.
Chapter 13 - Mo’s Bad Day
Everything that could have possibly went wrong for James Monroe “Mo” Lipscomb actually did. He discovered his wife was having an affair. Police thought he was robbing a bank when he wasn’t. Finally, he walked into his kids’ day care center and holds dozens of children and teachers hostage. Steve was the first reporter on the scene of the terrifying hostage standoff and the first to do a sit-down interview with the hostage-taker.
Chapter 14 - Presidential Embarrassment
Imagine how you would feel if you were a reporter and a former President of the United States embarrassed you in front of a huge crowd? Steve explains how this happened when George W. Bush embarrassed the “friendly” reporter interviewing him.
Chapter 15 - The Dark Side
TV news people often call public relations, “the dark side.” In the final chapter, Steve explains why he decided to leave broadcast journalism after more than three decades, for a new career in public relations. Steve takes the gloves off and shares a critical perspective on the changing face of local television news.