Goodbye, Susie Creamcheese

By: Jason Colthorp
By: Jason Colthorp

One great journalist... one great friend... one tough goodbye. (VIDEO INCLUDED)

I keep seeing the final scene in my head from the last episode of M*A*S*H* where BJ leaves a rock formation showing the word 'goodbye' for his best friend Hawkeye.  I feel like that's what Beth Shayne deserves as she drives out of town.

A July summer night in 2006, I cut my vacation short by one day to anchor the Friday night 10:00 News on Fox 47 with Beth.  She was being considered for a co-anchor job at the time and this was the only opportunity to see how we might work together.  I jumped at the chance, b/c one, I thought she should be rewarded for all her hard work and great reporting, and two, I thought she could be a great anchor.  She got the job and it probably kept her in town an extra two years.

I've seen some good reporters in my 8+ years at WILX and I've seen some that worked very hard for stories.  Beth was both the best and the hardest working.  She quickly became the key person in the newsroom who had the "juice," as our old assignment editor Meymo Lyons used to say.  The "juice" is sources-- or the ability to get information on stories or leads that become good stories.  By the end of her tenure, Beth was getting calls at 3 a.m. from people in power letting her know of breaking news.  When Beth and I anchored together, she always did our lead package for that show as well.  Most people don't realize how tough that is and how intense a day that is.  She'd come in at 2:30 and make some calls, dig up some info to come up with 3 or 4 pitches for our news meeting.  (Everyone else usually has 1 idea).  One of her ideas was usually our lead story.  She then went out and did the interviews, did the story as soon as possible to get back in house for the real craziness to begin.  She'd get back, log her video, write the story, start editing the piece (sometimes all of it), and then still have to go over an hour-long show she was co-anchoring!!  Take it from me, it's an unenviable day that is non-stop, and often frustrating b/c things don't ever go to plan.  She did that for about a year and a half-- anchor for one nightly newscast and be lead reporter for two.  And when Tim Staudt praises you for it (or anything), you know you're doing a good job.  (Staudt is the one who nicknamed her Susie Creamcheese, btw.  I don't know why, but someone laughed the first time and when that happens, the Dean will keep saying it until it's dead.)  She also helped take Fox 47 News to heights never reached in its history in the ratings.

We had our bumps, too.  When I was ready to tape our nightly teases, she never was.  I'd get annoyed waiting and she'd get annoyed by my pestering.  Then I'd get annoyed again when she would change my copy while we taped them, because she didn't understand my pop culture or movie reference.  I'd explain it and most of the time she'd change it.  But that was the good thing about Beth-- she was thinking of the viewer, and I was SOMETIMES just looking for the cheap laugh.  I did get her to go along with some cute gags by the end of our run, though.  Beth also has a tendency to just yell out her questions about a story.  She was on the other side of the newsroom from me and our producers and she was usually crushed for time so you'd often hear-- "WHAT WAS JOHNSON CHARGED WITH?  DO YOU HAVE THAT CONFIRMED?  B/C I SEEM TO REMEMBER US SAYING HE HASN'T BEEN CHARGED YET!"  That often sent an annoyed producer shuffling through papers to double check something and you know what-- Beth was right almost every time. 

Another person in the newsroom said we're losing the backbone of our newsroom and that's true.  I guess that's why this is different than losing good reporters in the past.  It always seems to go in cycles with "The Best Reporter in Town."  When Jam Sardar left us, it became Taryn Asher at WLNS, when she left it became Lori Jane Gliha, then Brad Edwards, then Jeremy Ross, then it was kind of a tie between Beth and Jeff Campbell.  The secret there is-- they are boyfriend & girlfriend.  It was neat to watch them battle on the same story every now and then.  But Beth is the first of all those reporters to leave town without another job.  Jeff was hired in January as a morning anchor in Charlotte, North Carolina and that's where she's off to now.  I'm sure she'll find a job in the field-- she's too good not to. 

Anywho, somewhere in the years working with Beth, her taking my kids to the Zoo, playing softball together, joking around in the newsroom and on air, trying to teach her how to play Euchre, and giving her noogies, she became very near and dear to me.  I never had a sister, but I feel like I do now.  I told her that before she left and that when I report now, I try and think, "What would Beth do?  Who would she call?  How would she write this?"

If she was writing this, I think she'd say, "Enough already!"

Good luck, Shayne!  You'll be missed.

Bye the way, here's her final segment from Fox 47 News at 10 Tuesday night.

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