It was an afternoon and evening for sharing memories in the backyard of Wayne and Betty Bennett’s Harris County home. They, with the help of WTVM anchor-reporter Semone Doughton, held a farewell party for departing anchor Dee Armstrong. About 55 co-workers, former co-workers and family and friends came to the barbeque.
Wayne Bennett and Dee Armstrong
Her contract with the station expires at the end of the year. She has filed a civil rights suit against the station. Her last broadcast was on the 6 p.m. Monday news. That was not the main subject of conversation. It was an evening of fun and laughter, and as I said, for remembering.
I first met Dee in 1977 when I hired her as a reporter and weekend anchor for WRBL-TV. I was news director as well as the evening news anchor. She was just out of high school. She knew the basics of reporting, having had a good teacher, my old friend Ed Wilson. He had hired her as a reporter for WDAK radio when she was still in high school. What she didn’t know was reporting with pictures. We were using 16mm film at the time. She learned how to do that rapidly.
She worked at WRBL for a few years, and then got a job with at a Green Bay, Wisconsin station. Her executive producer there was Steve Faust, the first news director I worked with at WTVM. (I worked with a lot of news directors at WTVM. Every time the station would change ownership, it would change news directors, and sometimes in between. The station changed ownership four different times during the 15 years I worked there.) She got a leave of absence to come home to Columbus when her father was dying, and, instead of going back to Green Bay, ended up in Atlanta, where she got married and went to Georgia State University. Tragically, she lost her first husband to a high-rise building construction accident.
However, she ended up working for Steve Faust again when he hired her as a reporter right after I switched stations in 1986. She was only there a short time before my co-anchor Rebecca Todd left. That’s when the station decided to make her my co-anchor. Wayne Daughtery, manager at the time, asked me what I thought about the idea. I told him I thought it was a good idea and would work.
It did. Our ratings, which were already quite high – we were the undisputed ratings leader – got even higher over time. At one point we got a fifty share, which is almost unheard of, especially considering that so many choices had become available on cable TV. No station in Columbus – or probably anywhere else – comes near that now.
Dick McMichael and Dee Armstrong
When I retired from anchoring in 2000, we were still on top by a good margin. After that, I continued for a year in a public affairs capacity. In what was called a corporate-wide layoff – Raycom owns almost 50 stations – I was laid off after that year, but asked to come back shortly afterwards to do some special news projects and documentaries, which I did.
Now, after 22 years on top at WTVM, her broadcasting career closes. She told me she will become more immersed in her financial services career and has some other projects in mind. She started learning the financial services business when, as she told me, “I saw the handwriting on the wall.”
Welcome to life after TV, Dee. It’s not bad – a lot slower, but not bad. .
Left to right: Paul Therrien, WTVM pohotographer; Bob Jeswald, WRBL (former WTVM) weathercaster; Dick McMichael, retired WTVM (former WRBL) news anchor; Dee Armstrong, departing WTVM anchor; Dave Platta, WTVM sports director and anchor.