Over the past week or so, I’ve spoken with quite a number of people who, like me, have had the good fortune to have worked under the newsroom leadership of former WBIR News Director, Bill Shory. We felt like now was the right time to publicly express our appreciation both for WBIR-TV - which has been one of America’s most iconic local news operations for more than five decades, and which remains a great place to work, as well as a truly wonderful part of this community – and also for Bill himself, the guy who led WBIR to some of its greatest successes during his eight year run as News Director there.
WBIR’s storied reputation is well-deserved. From the people who work there and have worked there, to the “Straight From the Heart” newsroom culture that each employee truly strives to embody in his or her work, to the station’s high level of community involvement, WBIR is a resource that we who live and raise our families in East Tennessee are very lucky to have.
In his eight years as News Director, Bill led the newsroom through great ratings successes, sweeping industry changes, heartfelt community tributes and tough investigative projects. Through it all, he was a wonderful boss, always advocating for journalistic ethics, accuracy, fairness and compassion. He was an invaluable mentor and guide from whom many journalists learned a great deal, even as he was always willing to learn from others to become better at his own job.
No one doubts that WBIR will continue to shine as a beacon of excellence, both in the news industry and in this community, and anyone who has ever had the chance to be part of the WBIR family in any way treasures that relationship. And for those of us whose time at WBIR came during Bill Shory’s newsroom leadership, we also feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to work for and learn from a guy who made coming to work each day something energizing and challenging for his team, and who made us proud to be part of something great.
UPDATE: Since publishing this blog post, I’ve had multiple folks who have also worked with Bill Shory during their time at WBIR ask me to add something from them to what I’ve written. I am adding these quotes as I receive them. – Katie
“Bill is hard charger and a hell of a newsman.” - John Becker, WBIR TV
I’ve never had a conversation with Bill Shory that didn’t evolve into his pride in his newsroom and his dedication to his staff. Bill has served as both boss and mentor to scores of young journalists. I’ve spoken to many of them and have yet to encounter one who wasn’t left a better person and journalist because of his influence. - Boyd Huppert, 7-time National Murrow Award-Winning Reporter, KARE-TV, Minneapolis
“In every journalist’s life, there are a select few people who shape the course of that journalist’s career. In my life, one of those people has been Bill Shory. More than five years ago, he gave me the best job I’ve ever had – working in the newsroom at WBIR, and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity. Under his leadership, I was challenged, encouraged, educated and trained. Bill showed me what it meant to stay true to our industry’s ethical standards, even in the face of adversity. He pushed me to always dig deeper, work harder, and get better, all while guiding me as a mentor and a friend. He taught all of us in the newsroom how to be the best we can be at our craft, and those lessons will live on in his absence and in his honor.” - Brittany Bailey, weekend morning anchor, WBIR
“So many people have made — and continue to make — WBIR-TV special: talented individuals behind the cameras and in front of them as well as loyal viewers who continue to demand accuracy, the truth, and straight-forward yet compassionate stories about their community. Bill Shory valued that legacy — and added to it in significant ways — as News Director. He pushed for what was right, asked tough questions when nobody wanted to face them, and challenged the status quo without fear. Bill encouraged reporters to dig for the real story but let the public judge the facts. And thankfully, Bill and WBIR’s support remained steadfast as the stories and responses developed. It was an honor to be a part of the team, and I am thankful for the incredible friendships that began at WBIR. I consider Bill one of those friends who I treasure even more-so today.” – Kay Watson, former WBIR Reporter/Anchor
“Summing up Bill Shory’s impact on the news business and on me personally is hard to put into one paragraph. He is a man who mentors young talent, who nurtures seasoned talent, who fights for ethics in journalism even if it goes against the mainstream opinion. He is a man who is smart, strong, passionate and kind. He truly cared about his employees in a way that went beyond news headlines. I have him to thank for my job, yes, but even more I have him to thank for laughing with us, crying with us and fighting for us. WBIR is the best place I’ve ever worked and I am proud to have learned what ‘straight from the heart’ means from one of the best in the business.” – Abby Ham, morning anchor, WBIR
“Having worked with Bill for several years, I have a great deal of respect for him. He had a true feel for what was important news to East Tennessee and WBIR. The community and station hold a very special place in my heart.” – Former WBIR anchor Ted Hall
“I had the pleasure of working for Bill Shory at WBIR for six years…I love that Bill has such a zeal for local TV news; he’s truly passionate about putting the best product on the air. However he isn’t willing to compromise when it comes to ethics and journalism. He stands for what’s right, and will fight for it, even if it means standing alone. I respect his ability to stand up for pure journalism, and I believe he was a great newsroom leader.” – LaSaundra Brown Gibson, former WBIR Anchor/Reporter
“Bill Shory is one of the most ethical people I know, always standing up for the rights of the public and the media, no matter the venue. He is what every journalist should strive to be. I trusted his judgment both in and out of the newsroom, and I still go to him for advice three years after leaving WBIR. Bill Shory was more than a boss; he’s a friend.” – Robin Murdoch, former WBIR Reporter
“In a world where TV news does a lot wrong, Bill Shory did a lot right.” – Jacob Nagel, former WBIR photojournalist, and national Edward R. Murrow award winner
“I had the chance to work with Bill for three years. As a journalist, he was passionate, responsible, and committed to quality. He was open to questions and comments, living the brand that makes WBIR so special. As a person, he truly cared about the happenings in my life, and offered great perspective during challenging times.” – Dan Farkas, former WBIR Reporter and 10Sports Anchor
“Bill Shory was one of the most amazing news directors I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His passion and intensity for thejob were unsurpassed, and he was always willing to help me out when I needed it. Most importantly, he understood the value of team work; a true credential for any newsroom. I wish him nothing but happiness & success … “Straight from MY Heart!” – Cheryl Scott, former WBIR meteorologist
“If I’d been working for any other news director—any—I think I’d have gotten out of the news business after two years. I’ve not met or worked with any manager who ‘gets’ investigative work like Bill does, and why it’s one of the most important functions a news organization can possibly fulfill in the community. I couldn’t count on all my digits the number of employees I saw working harder and going that extra mile because Bill was their boss—because they knew how hard he was working at it, and saw that it must be pretty damned important. Knoxville news took a big hit with his departure. ” - Jacob Jost, former WBIR Executive Producer for Online Media, and current Editor in Chief (elect) of University of Illinois College of Law Review