The early days of television journalism in Texas required the craft’s pioneers to be enterprising, persistent and determined. They had to have a thick skin and the ability to “fly by the seat of their pants.” A good sense of humor didn’t hurt either.
These requirements sum up the storied and colorful career of longtime DFW newsman Bert Shipp. Over his 45-year career in TV news, Shipp served as reporter, photographer, assignment editor, assistant news director and news director. His work in the field won wide acclaim and the respect of his peers. In management, he got the best work out of his news team, helped build one of the most respected news operations in the country, and helped shape the course of television news in Texas.
Like many of the early Texas TV legends, Shipp started his career in newspapers, first at the Abilene Reporter News, then at the Dallas Times-Herald. But the legendary Amon Carter, owner of powerhouse TV station WBAP-TV Channel 5 (now NBC’s KXAS) and the Fort Worth Star Telegram, knew the potential of this budding industry and began hiring industrious and aggressive newspaper reporters to lead the TV news revolution. Among the pioneers of this group was Bert Shipp.
Shipp was hired in 1959 to be part of the team covering Dallas for the Fort Worth-based station. He took on the new role with gusto and became the ultimate one-man band. Shipp many times told stories of the days when he shot the news with a film camera and lit his subjects with a harsh Fritzo light. Adding to that, he also had to report the story and get it all on the last bus to Fort Worth in time for the station to process the film, edit the story, and then air it on that night’s episode of The News of Texas at 10:00 pm.
Bert Shipp’s grit and determination in covering everything from crime scenes to city hall did not escape the notice of competing station, WFAA-TV. At the time, Channel 8’s newsroom was a very young, up and coming operation. In 1961, they brought Shipp in as assistant news director. It ended up being one of several roles Bert played at the station.
Two years after joining the WFAA-TV team, Bert Shipp became a key figure in covering President Kennedy’s fateful trip to Dallas. Much of what the rest of the country saw and heard that day was from WFAA’s coverage, which was carried nationally on ABC News. Those tragic days were a turning point for broadcast news, as the power of live TV helped a grieving nation come together as one.
Bert is remembered as being a mentor and a leader, capable of pushing his news staff to do their very best. He helped lift the WFAA newsroom to nationwide prominence, and he let everyone who joined that operation know they were expected to live up to the standard he helped set.
Bert Shipp’s career, lasting nearly half a century (1959-2004), allowed him to be involved in the coverage of many historical events and get up close and personal with many of the memorable people who shaped the Dallas-Fort Worth region, the state of Texas and the nation.