WPXI's Dee Thompson Retires After Nearly 35 Years Of Service
Dee has been out on medical leave for much of the summer, but will retire from WPXI effective September 1, 2009.
"For 27 years straight I never missed a day of work, no matter if I was working in the cold, because I was a conscientious reporter." — Dee Thompson
Through the years, in the wee hours of the morning, you may have noticed on WPXI-TV, Dee Thompson working hard in all kinds of weather covering breaking news for the morning shows. You may have even wondered, how in the world does this guy stand there morning after morning, without missing a beat? Well, for those who know Dee Thompson, they simply will tell you, he is just a class act, a reporter who truly was committed to his job and focused on being a responsible journalist.
(Photo courtesy of WPXI)
PUM Goes One On One With One Of The Region's Hardest Working Television News Reporter, WPXI'S Dee Thompson
PUM: Is it true Dee that you are retiring? Why now?
Thompson: Yes, I made the decision last week, based on some health issues and
I became a new grandfather. My daughter, just gave birth to my new granddaughter, Bree, and I felt based on health reasons and my new grandchild the timing was right. It was my decision, I had been thinking about retiring for a while, after four years ago I had colon surgery. I hadn't missed any work since that time, and then this year, my colon burst, and in the past two months I have been off from work--since June 1st. So, I've had a serious surgery, which would make it difficult to continue the schedule I had a Channel 11, I have to be careful about my health and now since I am a grandpa, I want to enjoy my time off.
PUM: You have a long history working in the news industry.
Thompson: Yes, started my career as a reporter and editor for the Beaver Falls News-Tribune, now a part of the Beaver County Times. I believe I'm one of the first African American's to work in this business in this country, to work in mainstream media. I started out at when I was 16 years old.
PUM: What are you going to miss most?
Thompson: I started my career covering sports, and went all over the country, in fact, I went to 56 cities covering sports, all the major cities. I covered the Steelers for 12 years, this included covering 6 Super bowls. During the time I was covering sports, the city was truly a city of champions, back in those days. I got a chance to cover the Pirates in the 70's, all the teams had winners. One of the reasons I stayed in the business so long is because I especially liked sports. I hosted "The 5th Quarter" and "Steeler Huddle." I created, "5th Quarter" and it was a huge money maker for the station, in fact, all the NFL teams later copied that format where we did post game interviews live.
PUM: After covering sports you moved into news, what about that transition?
Thompson: Yes, I worked early morning shifts and overnights, these newscasts would later become a success. For over 20 years I worked from midnight to 8 am, and was on the air live from 5am to 7am. Working over nights can be very exciting there's always some sort of breaking news, but it's also tough, being out in the cold, freezing weather. I'm proud to say that for 27 years I never missed a day of work. I was focused on doing my job, a good job.
PUM: What about some of your memorable stories?
Thompson: I was the last person to interview Roberto Clemente live, and later I was sent to Puerto Rico on the story to search for his body. I remember, Geraldo Rivera and I were both on that story. After interviewing Clemente, I became a big fan of his, he was an ideal person, later I produced an award winning documentary about him. I covered 7 presidential Candidates and or Presidents, conducting one on one's with Kennedy (I was working with newspaper during that interview) and later, Palin and Obama. I never thought a black man would become President, in my life time. And that is what has been great about my experience working as a journalist, you never know history making moments, or realize as a journalist the stories you are covering will become historical moments until it is over. This career has afforded me the opportunity to see things I never imagined, all of this was possible because I worked in the electronic media.
PUM: The industry has changed significantly since you got in the television business.
Thompson: Yes, not much journalism now, but more entertainment, very different compared to when I got started. Now, it is a high tech industry, where you can feed video to a cell phone, you don't even need satellite trucks. When I started out in the business, I did one of the first live shots from the Super Bowl via satellite back in the 70's and I remember a 2 to 3 second delay when I went live.
PUM: Now that you are retired?
Thompson: I really am very busy, but I always had a desire to make movies, and documentaries, perhaps even be in movies, on a part time basis of course. I love Pittsburgh, the support people have shown me while I was ill, I appreciate all that... The most important thing I am looking forward to is sleeping regular hours.
Dee Thompson will be missed...
Dee Thompson Bio
Dee started working for WPXI-TV in 1974, prior to that position he worked at WTAE as a producer and reporter. Dee grew up in New Brighton, PA and attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and started his career as a reporter and editor for the Beaver Falls News- Tribune, which is now part of the Beaver County Times.
After arriving at Channel 11, Dee was a sports anchor and host of the shows The 5th Quarter and Steelers Huddle and covered the Steelers for 12 years as a sports reporter. He is a board member with the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services. Dee has two daughters.
Since his start at Channel 11, Dee has earned Associated Press awards and a Golden Quill Award for his coverage of a sports series about handicapped athletes.
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