WFSB & WFSB history

Mourning a Connecticut TV Pioneer

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We received word this week of the death of a former member of the Channel 3 team, Jean Tucker.  Jean made broadcast history in Connecticut when she became the first woman to anchor a newscast at WFSB, then known by our old call letters of WTIC.

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Jean covered the major stories of the day, and did some groundbreaking reporting on abortion. It was illegal in Connecticut then, and some of the images that appeared in her reporting, I don’t think would be allowed on the air today.  There were no cell phones and social media then, and Jean had to screen her interviews on film, a tedious process.

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Jean had an amazing career, one that happened before my time here, so I’ll let my predecessor Dick Bertel tell her story.

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Jean Tucker passed away this past Monday, December 15th.   As her obituary notice clearly indicates, she was an extraordinary newswoman who wrote firsthand accounts of the turbulent ‘60s in her role as a reporter for the Hartford Courant.

What is glossed over, however, is her place in Hartford television history. Jean Tucker became the first female television news anchor on Channel 3 – in 1969.

What makes this so historic is that there were no women television news anchors in 1969 – not even on the networks. Although Barbara Walters was well-known by this time as a reporter for the ‘Today’ show she didn’t anchor a network newscast until 1976 when she joined ABC. Nancy Dickerson broke through the male-only CBS news organization in 1960 when she covered the Nixon-Kennedy presidential race, among other breaking stories of that era, but, although she hosted several network news interview programs, she never sat in the anchor chair. And, even the venerable Pauline Frederick, who hosted the daily 9 AM NBC radio hourly news in the mid-1950’s, didn’t make it to a TV anchor desk.

I remember being called up to the office of Leonard J. Patricelli in August, 1969 for reasons I couldn’t guess. There I was told that I was being assigned to a brand new TV newscast called “The 12 O’clock Report”, a mid-day summation of local and world news. I asked if I were going to be the anchor. “No, “said Pat. “You are going to be the co-anchor.” I’d never heard of a dual-anchored TV newscast before. “Who is to be on the set with me” I asked, assuming it would be one of the other announcers on the staff. “Jean Tucker” was the reply.

I knew Jean, though not well. I had met her several times and was fully aware of her excellent reputation at the Courant. I also knew she had no television experience which was of concern to me, although I figured that her reportorial skills would get us through this new venture.

I remember that first show. Even with make-up on it seemed that all color had drained from Jean’s face. As I recall, my heart was pounding as well. However, we got through it without any major mistakes, for which we were both thankful. It turned out the problem was not with us but with the set. Each of us sat at separate desks that had no front skirts. The viewers could see our legs clear up to our knees. We looked rather ridiculous. It took several days to correct the problem.

Jean was a quick learner and after a bumpy couple of weeks we began to hit our stride. It was working.

We continued as co-anchors for about three years until I was selected to anchor the 6 o’clock Report in late 1972. Jean left the anchor desk to concentrate on writing editorials.

Today, of course, we take women news anchors for granted.   They are as much a part of the broadcast scene as men – maybe even a little more so. But in 1969 they virtually didn’t exist!

Thanks to Jean Tucker and other pioneers who refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, women today play a vital role in keeping us informed.

Dick Bertel

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Here is Jean Tucker’s obituary:  http://www.carmonfuneralhome.com/obituary/Jean-C.-Tucker-Kravsow/Bloomfield-CT/1462007

By the way, Jean worked at Channel 3 at a time of tremendous change for women.   She was at Broadcast House in the days when women were not allowed to wear pants.  Seriously.  Check this out:

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WTIC CONTRACT

 

 

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5 replies »

  1. I remember vividly Bob Steele who did the morning show. I remember the Farm report–a morning program–5 AM–about farms(?). It seemed for the longest time, we listened to radio for our news, never watched television for news. Now, I never listen to radio for much of anything. I remember in the 80s listening to Robert J. Lurtsema “Morning Pro Musica” from Boston Public Radio, and Garrison Keillor for “Prairie Home Companion” also from Boston Public Radio. The family I lived with had no television–so I remember Sunday evening listening to “Johnny Dollar” “Amoz and Andy” “Dragnet”… (I think–as the song says–“I remember it well.) I remember CBS New York at noon featured Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Now television and the internet gives the entertainment. RIP for both Jean and the past.

  2. Dennis–Jean was also the station’s first female editorial director. She was given the job when The Washington Post bought Channel 3 in 1974 and I believe she wrote and presented editorials until she retired.

    Dick Ahles

  3. Very nice lady and Journalist. In 1973 I was a 23 year old working in the edit department at WTIC editing news film, an occasional “Whats Happening” directed by Jack Guckin, syndicated films and projectionist. One day Jean and I were talking in the projection room and towards the end of our conversation she predicted that I would be a producer. I don’t know where that came from but it always stayed with me throught the years. As I moved on after the sale of WTIC and venture into other areas it puzzled me how she had come to that conclusion.
    Today I am 64 years young and a video producer for the Orlando Fire Department.
    Great call Jean and Gods speed.

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