August 9, 1928|
New York City
|Died||July 11, 1991
|Alma mater||University of Miami|
|Occupation||Television news journalist, commentator|
Ralph Apperson Renick (August 9, 1928 – July 11, 1991) was a pioneer television news journalist for Miami's WTVJ, channel 4 (now channel 6), Florida's first television station. He was WTVJ's first and longest running news anchor and the driving force behind television news in South Florida from the station's inception in March 1949 until his departure nearly 36 years later in 1985.
Renick joined WTVJ as an intern in 1949 after graduation from the University of Miami, where he studied under an H. V. Kaltenborn Scholarship. Kaltenborn was an eminent CBS Radio commentator. Renick was the face of WTVJ, then channel 4, for the next 36 years.
Renick was unopposed as a South Florida anchor from 1949, when WTVJ aired programs from all networks via kinescopes, until it became exclusively a CBS affiliate in 1956. In that year, WCKT (now WSVN), channel 7 began broadcasting in Miami as an NBC affiliate station, followed in the late 1950s by WPST-TV (now WPLG-TV), channel 10, as ABC's outlet in Miami. Despite a strong attempt to challenge Renick and WTVJ over the years, he remained the dominant and number one rated news anchor for his entire 36 year run.
In 1957, Renick made history by broadcasting the first of nearly thirty years of nightly editorials on his 6 pm newscast, The Ralph Renick Report. Two years later, in 1959, he traveled to Cuba for an exclusive interview with the communist nation's newly minted dictator Fidel Castro, and later that same year to the Kremlin, to interview Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In 1960, Renick named Dr. Manolo Reyes, a former lawyer in Cuba, and a pioneering Spanish-language broadcaster, to launch South Florida's first Spanish-language newscast on WTVJ.
He also opened the door to women in 1967 when he hired the nation's first female sportscaster, Jane Chastain. A year later, in 1968, Renick made history again by hiring South Florida's first black reporter, C.T. Taylor.
Renick pushed WTVJ to pioneer video tape and ENG (Electronic News Gathering) in late 1974 and by November 1975 had the state's first truly mobile live truck up and running. Shortly after 3:00 pm on November 30, 1975, Renick broke into regular programming to report an attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan, in town for a speech at the Miami Airport Ramada Inn. Because WTVJ's live capability was in place, Renick was able to throw to reporter Bob Mayer for the station's first live mobile field report (See link below).
Renick, then a widower with six children, served on the board of directors of the Associated Press from October 1977 to May 1981. He also served as president of the Associated Press Broadcasters, an advisory group for the AP's news division. Additionally, Renick was also president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association.
Though he continued to dominate the news ratings through the mid-1980s, Renick's world began to unravel when the founder and longtime owner of WTVJ, Wometco Enterprises, Inc., sold off the Wometco empire following the death of founder and President Mitchell Wolfson, in 1983. The station was acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), an investment firm, in what was then the largest leveraged buyout in US history: one billion dollars.
During the majority of his tenure at WTVJ, Renick reported directly to Mitchell Wolfson. He was, in fact, believed to be the only news director in local American television news to report direct to a station owner rather than a station's general manager. As a result, Renick had unprecedented authority before Wolfson's death.
After the acquisition, KKR began to structure WTVJ's newsroom differently in the more traditional way of the 1980s with multiple persons in management, and slowly stripped Renick of that authority, making it uncomfortable for him to continue within his unique role as the station's top anchor, editorialist, news director,and Vice President for News. As a result, Renick made the preemtive decision to resign on his terms rather than be forced out by KKR.
In March 1985, Renick appeared for the last time on WTVJ, telling his audience "It is my decision, effective tonight, to step down as vice president and news director of WTVJ, and also relinquish my duties as newscaster/editorialist on this program." At the time, he did not announce what his plans were. He simply told viewers "I thank you for being the most supportive TV news audience anyone could ever hope to have." He ended his run on the station with his traditional sign-off, "Good night and may the good news be yours," but then added these three words: "... and hopefully mine."
Within six weeks, Renick announced he would be a candidate in the 1986 race for Governor as a Democrat. He spent $100,000 of his own money on his failed gubernatorial bid before quitting the race after six months.
In 1988, Renick returned to the air once again, after signing a multi-year contract with WCIX Channel 6 (now WFOR) to do a nightly commentary called "The Ralph Renick Report." As his health began to fail, Renick officially retired in September 1990.
Death and legacy
After spending the last months of his life hospitalized, Renick died on July 11, 1991, at Cedars Medical Center in Miami, of complications from hepatitis and liver disease. He was a month away from his 63rd birthday. His funeral mass at St. Mary's Cathedral was presided over by then Archbishop Edward McCarthy and was packed to standing room only. It was attended by hundreds of South Florida's movers and shakers, and was broadcast live in a two-hour special report on WTVJ. News of Ralph Renick's death was the lead story on every Miami station and was the end of an era in television news.
- Television obituary aired on WTVJ on July 12, 1991
- Entire WTVJ 6PM News on The Day Renick Died 7-12-91
- 1st Live WTVJ ENG field report aired Nov. 20, 1975
- 1st Woman Sportscaster in US - aired 1971
|WTVJ anchor (as The Ralph Renick Report / News 4 With Ralph Renick)
with interim anchors Jim Brosemer and Ana Azcuy from March until August 1985
1949 – 1985
John Hambrick and Susan Lichtman Taylor