Remembering Flo

July 31, 2009 1:32:01 PM PDT
It's been a most bizarre summer, weather-wise. And the bizarre, severe weather continues tonight.

More severe thunderstorms and flash flooding are expected. I just looked over to our weather center - and we had three meteorologists tracking the systems that are moving in - Lee Goldberg, Jeff Smith and Bill Evans. Lee leads our coverage tonight, at 11. And we'll have reporters out in the field, covering the storm damage.

We're also in New Jersey where the youngest mayor ever elected in Hoboken tonight has become the youngest mayor ever to resign in that city.

Peter Cammarano struck just about everyone as a confident, sometimes cocky politician. Reggie Jackson used to say that it ain't braggin' if you can do it - and for a while it seemed Cammarano would be able to do it.

He talked the talk with the best of them, promising reform and a new political atmosphere. If you look up the definition of corruption, you'll see a map of New Jersey. Cammarano let people think he was going to change that.

Instead, he may help burnish the Garden State's reputation.

We'll have the latest, tonight at 11, including the ascension of the first woman to take over City Hall in Hoboken - Dawn Zimmer, who barely lost last month's election to Cammarano.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

One more thought on this Friday night, and it's a remembrance.

In newspapers they like to say that everyone needs an editor. I think that can be applied to just about every facet of life. And in my life, Flo Sikes was my editor. She was a "consultant" for the first television station I worked for - KNSD in San Diego - back in the late 80s. Having just come from a career in newspapers, heaven knows I needed some help, and someone to help me. Flo was that person.

We hit it off, but lost contact for about a decade, until the-then news director of WABC TV, Bart Feder, called me and said he thought I'd be a good fit at Eyewitness News. I was a full-time correspondent for 20/20, and quite happy. But Bart and I talked, and I gave it a try.

At our first meeting, Bart said he thought I could replace Bill Beutel when he retired, and he wanted to bring me on board.

One of the first people I called was Flo Sikes. If I'm going to do this, I told her, I need help.

And so we began our relationship anew. Every week, with Bart's blessings and on my dime, I'd send her tapes of the newscasts. And every week she'd send me back blistering critiques. Honest critiques. But they could be brutal.

And they were right on the money.

That was 11 years ago. Every summer, Flo would mail me a simple, couple-of-sentence contract. And every year I'd sign it and mail it in.

She never failed to be honest - brutally at times - in her observations and suggestions. They were always constructive, never demoralizing, and always on target.

She died a couple of weeks ago. Her 75-year-old heart gave out on her, after nearly two years of trying to recuperate from debilitating back surgery. I talked to her last month - she said she thought she was cheating me out of my money because she hadn't critiqued my work in a while. I told her she'd always be my coach. With what she taught me about anchoring news, and communicating, and speaking clearly (or at least trying to, sometimes with success), there was no way she'd ever cheat me out of anything.

Lost in our back and forth emails was a line I discovered only after she died, when I re-read our messages. I hope she wouldn't mind me revealing it.

"What ever else this condition has had on me or done to me, it's been eye-opening. The terrible feeling of having no energy, no appetite, no desire to go on living?. as you point out, none (of it is) my natural behavior."

Flo was vibrant and wicked smart, well-read and dead-on honest.

We all need editors.

And I just lost mine.

BILL RITTER


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