I'm often amazed...but not surprised...at the outpouring of emotion when a familiar figure from my profession dies...especially when it's sudden.
It happened during the early weeks of the Iraq war, when David Bloom, the NBC correspondent covering the war at the time, suddenly died from a non-combat related disorder. And again, two years later, when longtime ABC anchor and journalist Peter Jennings died.
And it's not a new trend. The same type of sadness resulted when Jennings' predecessor, Frank Reynolds, died of cancer more than two decades earlier. And again, when NBC anchor Jessica Savitch (whom I had met through her sister, Lori, when I was in college) died in a car accident a few months after Reynolds' death.
We in television are part of an extended family. I experience that in my travels outside the station, especially since I've been at WTAP now for 28 years (and, yes, people increasingly ask me how long I've been here). Glenn Wilson probably had that a lot, even after he retired. Jim Wharton probably experiences both the recognition and the feelings of the public that he, too, is "part of their family".
WTAP indeed, is no exception to this. In my first months at the station, one of our reporter/anchors, Nancy Hickel, who came here from radio at the same time I did, died suddenly. We were both 24 years old at the time.
And when a popular TV personality, such as Tim Russert, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press", passes (especially when it's sudden), it's like a death in the family.
The nation recently heard of the death of Little Rock, Arkansas news anchor Anne Pressly, who was murdered during an apparent robbery at her home. It, too, resulted in shock and sadness among Arkansas TV viewers, most of whom undoubtedly never met Pressly face to face.
The latest passing of this kind hits closer to home.
Last Friday, Heather Pick, a morning news anchor at W.BNS-TV in Columbus, lost a battle with breast cancer she had been fighting for nearly a decade.
I didn't know Heather, but I had read about her struggle, and was amazed by her upbeat attitude in dealing with it, and about her crusade to promote awareness of the disease and help others who had to deal with it as well.
Interestingly, the reaction to her death this time has extended to other Columbus TV stations.
In placing a story on Pick's passing on its own website, WCMH-TV, WBNS's long-time competitor, included a link to the portion of WBNS's website where viewers could post their own condolences.
When it comes to the TV "family", even different stations put their differences aside for one of their own.