Betsy Mitchell hit Tyler four weeks ago. Channel 7 had their new weekend anchor, reporter Amy Grizzaffi, her new roommate. One call later and we were set for a game of tennis. I faxed, "It would add a lot of humor to the column. That would be fantastic!"
I'm going to quit being too eager. Betsy sensed it. Tennis was dropped in favor of a Channel 7 tour and a visit to my neighbors in the fourth grade hall, Mrs. Tindel's class.
Alabama landed Betsy in 1974, the first of two daughters for Judge Dewey Mitchell III. In high school she was a cheerleader and played tennis. Prior to Tyler, Mitchell attended SMU and worked in Sherman. She enjoys water skiing and hanging out with friends.
As the sun faded into Tyler lights I was ushered into the station. I found Betsy at her desk in a blur of typing, reciting and staring the news down in her monitor. TV's nobility glided by; I was in Channel 7 heaven and shook hands like a poor choir boy.
I met sports anchor Casey Norton and a tower of elegance, anchor Beryl Banks. Then there were the people I only knew from the credits. In a jungle of lights, cameras and action, they moved like leopards through the twinkling maze of technology.
Betsy threw the door wide open on the news. Accessible and genuine, she invited me into the green room to witness the arrival of make-up and hair spray. Some gestures are so nice and good hearted they win you over for life. Powder danced, lipstick squiggled, hairspray flew and I knew Mitchell's beauty went through to the bone.
Before meeting Betsy, I wondered if her gigantic smile was real. Then, I saw her practice the news, do make-up, and buzz around flashing that same white TV rectangle. I resisted the urge to request a measurement of its perimeter.
Mitchell told me they work on improving different things as rookie anchors. At first she addressed relaxing more. Now, she was working on not bobbing her head so much. Reporters receive two types of e-mail, nice and a little brutal.
I saw the big blue geometric wonder, the center of every newscast, and set in each of the four anchor chairs for a second of fantasy. I stared into the teleprompter and met weekend weatherman Gary Childress. He sat surrounded with enough knobs and levers to be the wizard in some movie. I touched the plain green wall where he points at the weather.
Producer Mark Jones led me to the director's booth at 5:45 as Betsy took her place for blast-off at 6:00. She read over her opening lines and sipped root beer while sharing jokes with Casey, Gary and the camera crew. At exactly six, Betsy shared the news like an oak desk doing seventy--solid but silky smooth.
Mrs. Tindel teaches 4th grade across the hall. With a blinding smile, Betsy surfed in between subjects on waves of style and glamour. It was easy to picture Mitchell on the larger screen, something she considered trying before TV news set the hook. The students interviewed Betsy and adopted her for life. Kids never forget nice people and autographs.