Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trail-blazing Rita Williams retires

Rita Williams said farewell to Channel 2 viewers last night after 35 years with the station and a remarkable career that blazed a trail for other women reporters in what was once a male-dominated business.

Williams in the 1980s
She told The Almanac, the paper serving her hometown of Portola Valley, that she considers herself to be tenacious, but also sees herself as bringing a woman’s feeling and warmth to her reporting.
    She recalls a news conference she covered after a child was murdered. "I remember waiting until all the guys finished yelling their questions, and I knew the police chief had kids, and asked, 'How did this case affect you?' He teared up and said, 'This is the hardest case in my 39 years; I have a kid the same age, and it hurts.'" That turned out to be the quote most of the newsmen used in their stories. 
    Another memorable story she tells is running onto the Bay Bridge minutes after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, wondering if she was putting her own life in danger, spending the night there, and then reporting on the situation from another live location well into the next day. She also witnessed the last gas chamber execution at San Quentin in 1993.
She gave notice last summer and said her boss picked Feb. 27 as her last day because it was the last day of the ratings period.

Williams in the early 2000s
In an era when reporters have short careers and bounce around from station to station, it’s unusual for Williams to have been at Channel 2 for 35 years.

“Most women who started with me back then stopped doing it. It was a tough business, lots of barriers, lots of discrimination. Sometimes, people would do their best to get rid of you. So you just worked harder than any of the guys, and you showed them you can do it, and you just did it,” she said, according to a story posted on the KTVU website.

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