Anyone who enters television news has a few icons who inspired him or her to join the profession.
The first television newscaster I ever remember seeing was the man in the pictures below.
My father was appointed to a church in Columbus GA in 1956 a few months before I turned two. I still have fleeting memories from the age of three when our house was one of thousands in West Georgia and East Alabama tuned to Evening Edition at 7 p.m. on WRBL Channel 4 (more on the station’s switch to Channel 3 in a subsequent post). Glen Broughman, Doug Wallace with Weather Outlook and Douglas Edwards with the News on CBS at 7:15 were unbeatable.
Glen Broughman was “Mr. News” in the era in Columbus, make no mistake. He was the pioneering news anchor (and later news director) for the station from its inception in 1953. The term “anchor” was yet to be invented.
The ratings for Evening Edition were higher than many of the network or syndicated prime time entertainment programs. With his signature crewcut, often accompanied by a bowtie, Glen was alone in prime time news in Columbus until WTVM, still on Channel 28, launched its Operation Newsbeat in 1959.
Glen served in the Signal Corps during World War II. After the war, he entered college on the G.I. Bill, earning a degree in radio journalism from Ohio State in the late 1940s.
When television came to Columbus in 1953, WRBL had the X factor as a CBS affiliate. WDAK-TV, operating on a weaker UHF signal, was a primary NBC station. Both channels cherrypicked available ABC programs and added a sprinkling of the top syndicated shows of the day.
Glen Broughman was not of the mold of later conversational-turned-humor anchors. With him, the news was the news and it was all serious business. Even when a co-anchor,
David Lea, was added in 1962, Broughman was the straightforward news presenter.
He covered the gambling-influenced violence that was Phenix City, Ala., in the early 1950s and spawned a movie, “The Phenix City Story.” His reports of martial law in the East Alabama town were award-winning. Broughman also probed the struggles of integration with one-on-one interviews with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alabama Gov. George Wallace, and Georgia Gov. Marvin Griffin, all symbolic figures of the battle over civil rights.
In those early years, Broughman was also the iron pants of Columbus television. A look back at the TV logs from 1956 indicate Glen not only did the 7 and 11 o’clock news on WRBL, he presented a five-minute newscast at 1:05 p.m. after five minutes of CBS headlines with Walter Cronkite. Often, he was on the street shooting newsfilm in the morning. A long-time viewer, Richard Almon, said to me 59 years ago: “I wonder when Glen Broughman ever sleeps.”
The late Columbus Council member Philip Batastini once told me, “When Glen Broughman came into a meeting of the old city commission, everything stopped until he put his camera on that tripod and began rolling his film.” When he left Columbus in late 1962, those same commissioners issued a proclamation expressing regret at his departure.
His career took him to a role as a special correspondent for NASA, to WFTV in Orlando and to WNEM in Saginaw, MI, not far from his birthplace of Bridgeport. I caught a promo for his impending move to Orlando in 1969. Supposedly for easier grasp of viewers, he shortened the spelling of his last name to Broman.
The Columbus television news pioneer died in 2014 at the age of 89. More than 50 years passed since he read his last story on Evening Edition and the 11 o’clock Night Edition. Sadly, only television historians such as I am, along with a few old-timers, remember him. Yet, he was the first person I saw on TV who influenced me to seek to do what he did for a living.
Periodically, I return to Columbus to visit relatives. When possible, I stop in to see my old friend—WRBL’s lead male anchor Phil Scoggins, who has now been in that chair for 20 years—-amazingly more than twice as long as Broughman’s tenure in a profession often known for its revolving door. Phil and I broke in at WRBL News 3 only four months apart in 1976.
In any workplace, someone had to be first so that others could be second, third, and fourth. In Columbus television news, Glen Broughman was the first and set a high bar. Phil and I and everyone who has ever walked through that door on 13th Avenue owe a debt of immense gratitude to the late Mr. Broughman. The job he did in those first nine years of WRBL News on television paved the way for hundreds of us who entered that legendary building in 1976 and in the 40-plus years since.