Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Warren Elly, last of the old-school TV reporters, hangs up his microphone

After all the murderers and rapists and fallen politicians, the hurricanes and shuttle launches, the perp walks and police funerals, TV reporter Warren Elly doesn't remember the story. But I do.

Years ago, he was sitting in first-appearance court, a place so familiar to a beat reporter the wooden pews for observers feel like they're worn to the shape of your backside.

Waiting for The Criminal of the Day to take his turn before the judge, Warren found himself next to a girl with a black eye. She wanted to testify that her boyfriend didn't mean to hurt her, he just had so much pressure on him, and couldn't the judge give him bail so he could come home?

Sadly, she was a dime a dozen at the courthouse, but Warren saw something else. He got her to talk and ran a story on domestic violence and women who won't prosecute and courts and cops struggling with how to deal with what had long been considered a private family matter.

Of course, by the time I told him I admired the story, he was already on to the next.

He landed here in 1982 and wore his dark hair slicked back. For a time, he sported a gunslinger's mustache until a news director told him to shave it off, his first experience with the cosmetic side of the news. He still likes to say he has a great face for radio.

Governors and state attorneys and sheriffs came and went, but there was always Warren from Channel 13, antsy with nervous energy and puffing down the last of a cigarette before his live shot. Prettier scorched-earthers have trampled through the local news landscape, promising and cajoling and moving on, but that was not him.

His stock-in-trade was trust and shoe leather, the result being a tendency to show up where something big had just happened or was about to. Secretaries happily made him copies, and clerks bent over backward to get him records. He probably quit smoking a dozen times, finally for good, though there is value in a beat reporter who can join the throngs taking their breaks outside government buildings.

He got to know a Tampa cop named Ricky Childers smoking, drinking coffee and feeding the pigeons together outside the police station — "the first cop who trusted me," he says. Warren was there with his cameraman the day Childers and Detective Randy Bell loaded a suspect into a police cruiser. Not long after that video was taken, the man was out of his handcuffs, and two cops were dead. Sometimes, Warren goes to the cemetery to see the cop who trusted him.

He got to be such an old hand at courts and cops they sent him to Los Angeles to cover O.J. Some of the best days, though, were shuttle launches. He has always been fascinated by space, and he covered at least 120 of them by his own count. When the Columbia was destroyed on a Saturday morning, it was Warren Elly doing live analysis for Fox News Channel.

He is 60 now, his hair and tan still dark but his mind on his wife of 38 years, Lona, and his grandkids. After a lifetime in TV news, all those years of true stories you could not possibly make up because no one would believe you, he retires in July. He says he is ready.

Juries will go on saying guilty and perps will walk and politicians fall, and the TV news will roll on full of bright, perfect faces talking into microphones, and it won't be the same without Warren.

Warren Elly, last of the old-school TV reporters, hangs up his microphone 04/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 7:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco targets repeat offenders with new code enforcement tactic

    Local Government

    HOLIDAY — The out-of-date and overpriced gasoline cost on the sign outside — $2.69 for a gallon of regular — is the first indication that business isn't booming.

    Basil A. Almamluk is the owner of the closed Pure Gas station in Holiday, which has emerged as a poster child for a new "high return'' county code enforcement effort. The property on Mile Stretch Drive is littered with discarded furniture and other trash. [Photo courtesy of Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Pasco tax roll shows increase, but so, too, are budget requests

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
New construction accounted for $693.5 million in taxable property values being added to the Pasco County tax rolls in 2016, according to preliminary estimates released by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner. Overall, the property tax roll grew more than 5 percent, according to the preliminary numbers.

  3. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  4. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  5. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.