The Sarasota Post Talks with Linda Carson of ABC 7
Linda Carson is a consummate professional in the news industry with a career that spans an impressive 50 years. Her personality has drawn us in and made us feel like family and her infectious smile and laugh, along with a cheery disposition have melted the hearts of fans. Every day a legion of fans tune in to see her on Suncoast View. For many, grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up with Linda and the gang on our very own local “View” is akin to a day at the beach; it’s refreshing, invigorating, and easy on the mind, being informative without feeling too bossy. We had the pleasure of catching up with Linda and hope you enjoy hearing about what is new with the Suncoast’s very own news maven.
With such a distinguished career, do you have a top three or four favorite stories that you have covered? Have you ever felt in danger during any of your reporting and has your investigating uncovered wrongdoings that you had not expected?
I was in the classroom with President George Bush at Emma E. Booker Elementary School on 9/11. I covered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his civil rights campaign in Atlanta, and went to his house to tell his wife he had been shot the night he died. I was an Anchor/Reporter/Weather Caster in Atlanta at the ABC station from 1964 to 1973. I did a long in-depth interview at Stark Prison with serial Killer Danny Rolling.
Suncoast View, such a favorite of many people seems so fun. You have worked with many people over the years. What are the components of a good team? What’s the best prank you’ve seen pulled on a new anchor?
Suncoast View is total fun. It’s like being at a cocktail party with your best friends. Sometimes you are shocked at what comes out of your mouth. They chose three hosts that are very different. But we get along so well we have become very close friends. There were many tears when Bobeth left for a job at CBS in Atlanta recently. We can totally disagree on a subject that we are discussing, and not get mad at each other at all. I respect and admire them so much. I think that’s the key. The best prank: Bello the Clown rigged up a tower as high as a three-story building with a mattress below it. Then he dared me to jump off it with him. We went up the lift, he jumped, then I jumped. But, the camera cut to a close up of Bello and a stunt man stepped in, put on my red sparkly jacket and a blond wig, and took my place. So, with tricky camera work, it looked like I jumped.
You have lived in the area for many years. What do you consider to be the greatest parts of Sarasota, the places that you hold near-and-dear? What do you consider to be a great date night? Also, in what areas do you think Sarasota could do better?
What do I enjoy? I love the beaches, walking around my neighborhood, Sapphire Shores Indian Beach, Sun Circle Park, Selby Gardens, Main Street in Sarasota, I love a couple of the shops. My favorite thing is live theatre. I love the Asolo Rep, West Coast Black theatre, Van Wezel, Florida Studio Theatre, Manatee Players, Sarasota Players, Venice Theatre all of them. Also, the opera and ballet.
For date night, I like to go out to dinner and to the opera, theatre or movie.
What areas could Sarasota do better?
Traffic. I don’t think the roundabouts will help. And helping the homeless. We never seem to make any progress on that; we just keep talking about it.
What is a typical day like for you during the workweek?
Here is my typical day: I arrive at 9 a.m., in makeup, hair done, read the lineup for Suncoast View. I print out the segments of the show I will lead and get familiar with them, then read over the hot topics we’ll be discussing. We are in the studio by 9:45 and usually finish around 11:30 or 11:40. I come back to my desk, gather up my stuff, get with my videographer, and we head out on a story I have set up previously. I do the interviews, we get b roll and pictures to tell the story and we come back, I log the story, write down every word with time codes, write the story, voice it, and set with the editor to edit it. Then I write it for our website. After that I work on setting up stories for the future. I do “A Place We Call Home” on Mondays, about great places on the Suncoast, My stories air on our 6 p.m. News, and repeat on the 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and Noon News the next day. “Amazing Suncoast Woman” is Tuesdays on the 6 p.m. News, “In the Spotlight” Wednesdays and Suncoast Scene Thursdays. I am also in the station’s booth at events like Music on Main, and Friday Fest. And I make a good many speeches.
We see you are selling your home, how is that process going? Do you know where you will settle next?
Yes, I’m selling my home. I’ve lived there for 20 years, and I love it. Both my son and my daughter got married on the back porch. It’s right on the water, near Ringling museum. But it’s a Key West Style, and I have had a hip replacement and I need two knee replacements and I have a really hard time getting up the steps. It’s also big. But that means when my son, his wife and two children come they can all stay with me, and my daughter and her two children and husband and dog who live in Sarasota can also come over and stay. I need a place we can all be together. Then the house next door to my daughter came on the market and I bought it the next day. I’ll live right next door to her, and the kids, ages 4 and 7, can come over any time, and when my son and his family come to town, there will be plenty of room for them between the two houses. My 7-year-old grandson said, when he heard, “It’s a miracle!”. But I won’t move until I sell my house. We’d had lots of people looking.
You are involved with many different charitable foundations in the area and really devote your time to others. Are there groups you would like the public to know more about?
I’m on the Board of Directors of the Circus Arts Conservatory, and I feel they are doing great work, not only in amazing performances, but in working with young people through Sailor Circus, working in Suncoast Schools teaching physics using Circus Acts, and with Laughter Unlimited, going into nursing homes, hospitals, and homes for people with disabilities and being a friend, an entertainer and a teacher. I’ve also been on the Board of the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association.
What’s it like behind the scenes at the ABC studios? Is there a large staff in the background or is it minimal? How much preparation goes into an episode of Suncoast View? Do the anchors pick the stories or is there a team that does that?
Behind the scenes at ABC 7, many of us have been here a long time and are like family. I knew our general manager before he was married. Now he’s married and has 2 children, and he’s somebody I really care about. Scott Dennis and Bob Harrigan and John Scalzi are all like family. I have given dozens of bridal showers and baby showers over the years. I just told Joey Panek, Suncoast View Producer, the other day, I said, “You’re like a father to me.” Except I’m about 40 years older than him. But we are all very close. None of the competitiveness you’ll find in many other markets I know. This is the 8th market, and the 12th station I’ve worked in. I started in Atlanta, married Bud Carson, Football Coach, followed him around the NFL and found jobs in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Kansas City, Hartford, Cleveland, Philadelphia. We came here when he retired. I’ve been at this station 23 years in May. I started in 1964 in Atlanta, and I’ve been working in on-air broadcasting ever since.
Our staff has diminished at ABC 7 in recent years. So, we all have many duties. The producer of the show picks the stories and the topics to air. I can certainly suggest people or ideas. On my News Stories, I choose the topics and the people. But on Suncoast View, Joey Panek makes those decisions. Stephanie Roberts doesn’t do news stories, so she helps Joey write the stories. We have an assistant producer, Matt, who also helps. We are really like a family, except we probably get along better than most families. I work until 6:30 or later every night. But I love what I do, and I can’t think of anything I would enjoy more.
We loved speaking with Linda Carson and look forward to catching up with her again. You can see Linda daily on the Suncoast View at 4:00 p.m., as well as Monday through Thursday during the 6:00 p.m. News. For more information, please visit http://www.mysuncoast.com/.
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ABC7, amazing suncoast woman, Asolo Rep, Bello the clown, Bob Harrigan, Circus Arts Conservatory, Danny Rolling, Emma E. Booker Elementary, Forida Studio Theatre, George Bush, Joey Panek, John Scalzi, Linda Carson, Manatee Players, Sarasota Players, Scott Dennis, Suncoast View, Van Wezel, West Coast Black theatre