After several years working together, Fox 13 anchor Mark Wilson will take over for his father, evening news anchor John Wilson, when he retires Nov. 26.
"Over the years, I've seen how Dad put his family and community first over himself, passing up several opportunities over the years to leave and go elsewhere," Mark Wilson said. "I grew up with an appreciation for the community."
The announcement came Wednesday evening just hours after John Wilson and retiring News Channel 8 anchor Gayle Sierens were honored at a gathering of more than 150 local media celebrities, politicians and community leaders.
One became the first — and only — female play-by-play announcer for an NFL game. The other captured three Emmy Awards over a career that spanned 50 years.
"You have produced a level of competence that people shoot for," said Reginald Roundtree, WTSP-Ch. 10 anchor and emcee of the event. "I think the bay area has been made a better place because of both of you."
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, sponsored the program on the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The event highlighted the work of two journalists dubbed community icons.
Sierens, 60, who won a Florida Emmy in 1984 and her second Emmy in 1991, joined News Channel 8 in 1977 as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. She also freelanced as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN,
In October 1985, she moved from sportscaster to news anchor. On assignment for NBC, Sierens in 1987 landed the role of play-by-play announcer for a Seattle Seahawks-Kansas City Chiefs game, the first and so far only woman to do so.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn noted during comments at the event that Sierens, who will retire in May, always performed her work in a way that endeared her to the community.
"She's not an anchor you have on a pedestal," Buckhorn said. "She's just Gayle, and that's what makes her special."
A half a century ago, John Wilson, 73, began working in broadcast radio and television. Before moving to Tampa Bay, Wilson anchored newscasts in Richmond and Norfolk, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; St. Louis; and overseas. He anchored the news for a decade at Ch. 10 before joining Fox 13. He has three Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Mark Wilson, 45, said he doesn't want his dad to leave and quipped that he enjoys being able "to go to work alongside my dad and put makeup on together."
John Wilson and Sierens, having traveled and interviewed people of various standings in life, offered some parting sage advice for up-and-coming journalists and others: learn something about life; don't neglect the art of writing, even with the brevity of the social media world; don't get too focused on one point of view; find ways to improve dysfunctional government.
Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times/Times Publishing Co., said that while the Poynter Institute brings distinguished people from across the globe to St. Petersburg, Wednesday's event helped focus on those who live in Tampa Bay.
"I think we have been reminded here today," Tash said, "that we also have great treasures right here at home."
Times staff writer Keeley Sheehan contributed to this report. Contact Ivan Penn at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.