TV News Past Meets Present

Tonight, WXYZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Detroit, recognized its 60th Anniversary with, among other things, getting its “old band back together.”

The anchor desk from the 1970s was brought back to the 7:00 news – Bill Bonds, John Kelly and Marilyn Turner.  Check it out here.

A self-serving stunt for Channel 7?  Absolutely.  Great TV?  You better believe it.

Tonight was a reminder of what local TV news once was.  Never mind the movie parody of “Anchorman” – this was real life in the heyday.  Channel 7 was the #1 station in a Top 10 Market when that really meant something.  They had it all – top-tier reporting, all of the technology available at the time, crisp marketing, a real swagger and, most importantly, personality.  TV news was a “must see” back then.  Not just because there were fewer choices on the air.  It was informative, provocative and respected your intelligence and sense of community.

For many of us, it was about Bill Bonds.  He is one of the two best local TV communicators I have ever seen – the other being Monica Kaufman (now Monica Pearson), who I was fortunate enough to be able to write for in the mid-90s at WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Bonds was a talented broadcaster AND a committed “newsman.”  He wrote and talked in a powerful, intelligent, yet conversational style.  His eyes, face and voice told you the stories, almost as if there was no camera and no TV between him and you.  He took on politicians in his “Up Front” segment (live “talkbacks” are now considered “boring TV” in local newsrooms) and took a stand (but knew his stuff).  He was a bona fide local celebrity.  Some loved him.  Some hated him.  Everyone watched him.

Tonight’s lead story wasn’t about crime – it was about the most important story in the market – just like it’s supposed to be – an auto industry in trouble.  Bonds’ lead-in was classic – putting facts into perspective to draw you into the story.  Sure, his voice isn’t what it once was, nor his comfort on-camera.  But, seeing Bill Bonds doing the news again is a reminder of what TV news was like once upon a time.