All Oral History Interviews
Phyllis Parish Howard, Director of Local Production, joined WRAL in 1982. Her desire to work in television started at an early age. It all started with a letter written to Carol Burnett, star of the immensely popular CBS variety program “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett wrote back to Phyllis – then ten years old, encouraging her to follow her dream. Phyllis took her advice.
At WRAL, she began as Promotion Coordinator, promoted to Promotion Producer, then Special Projects Producer. Now she is Director of Local Production managing commercial production and local programming.
She has been involved in a wide range of projects including WRAL’s “Save Our Sounds” campaign. Phyllis also wrote and co-produced “Troubled Rivers” a documentary that investigated toxic pollution in the Neuse River. Other community outreach projects include “For the Children” campaign resulting in the EMMY award winning special “NC’s Epidemic of Overweight Children”. The list of productions continues with “A Vision, A Voice…40 Years of Service” honoring WRAL’s 40th anniversary, “The Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade,” “NC Symphony Pops in the Park,” “Crisis in Kosovo,” “Coats for Kids,” “Smart Start for Kids,” just to name a few. Many of these projects can be viewed on this website.
One of the hallmarks of Capitol Broadcasting is its desire to serve the community. Phyllis and her team work at the core of those projects.
John Conway is General Manager of digital platforms for CBC New Media. Its flagship website, WRAL.com, is the most visited local media site in the North Carolina and is consistently ranked as a top rated television news website in the nation.
Conway first joined Capitol Broadcasting Company in 1995 as the first managing editor of what was then called WRAL OnLine. He has served as WRAL.com’s product development director and creative services director.
Conway is a 1985 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received a B.A. in journalism. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for newspapers in Raleigh, Greensboro and Orlando. He has held administrative positions with the UNC School of Journalism, including assistant dean for distance education and executive education.
Watch and listen to find out how CBC uses New Media now and anticipates its usage in the future.
Barbara Ann “Bobbie” Battista was a producer, on-air host and primary evening news anchor at WRAL-TV from 1974 to 1981.
Battista joined WRAL-TV in 1974 as a secretary, but she quickly convinced station management to put her on the air in 1976. She produced and anchored the WRAL morning news and other special programming until 1977, when she joined Charlie Gaddy on the station’s 6:00 and 11:00 o’clock news. Gaddy and Battista formed the first male-female anchor team in the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville television market.
Over the next four years WRAL achieved ratings dominance and in late 1981 Bobbie answered Ted Turner’s call to join a start-up cable network known as CNN. She was hired as one of the original anchors on CNN Headline News, but by 1986 Battista moved to CNN’s flagship cable channel where she became one of the network’s most recognizable stars.
During this time at CNN Battista also anchored a daily program for CNN International, making her the only anchor in CNN history to work at all three CNN networks. In 1998 Battista was chosen to host television’s first daily interactive talk show – Talkback Live.
Bobbie was interviewed by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree in 2006 for the 50th Anniversary of WRAL-TV. The video is “raw footage” from one camera angle and had not been edited showing the other camera angles. That is why you will see quick camera adjustments.
Known as “The Biggest Name in Weather,” Bob DeBardelaben was one of WRAL-TV’s best known on-air personalities, gaining fame as the primary weather anchor of the station’s dominant “Action News 5” broadcasts.
Bob joined CBC in 1966 as a sales rep for Tobacco Radio Network. He began voicing commercials and handling a variety of on-air and off-air jobs, and by the late 60s he was doing the morning show on WRAL-FM.
It wasn’t long before DeBardelaben’s talents would move to the world of television, where he gained instant popularity as the host of “Dialing for Dollars,” a daily quiz program on WRAL-TV. Bob would spin a big wheel, make random phone calls and challenge viewers to win money if they could recite “the count and the amount” of the contest totals at that particular moment.
Bob’s popularity continued to grow, and in 1976 his career was forever changed when he was named the primary weathercaster of WRAL-TV’s weekday newscasts. DeBardelaben replaced long-time weatherman Bob Caudle.
Bob was always up for a weather stunt, as well. In the mid-80s he broadcast the weather one evening from a platform near the top of WRAL’s 2,000-foot tower. All went well, but when he came back down after the newscast he kissed the ground and said “never again!”
DeBardelaben retired in 1989 at age 62. Always an avid golfer, he says he wanted to spend more time on the links.
Bob DeBardelaben died October 6, 2014 following a brief illness. He was 88.
In 1948, WRAL Radio President Fred Fletcher hired Helms as the News Director for WRAL-AM, WRAL-FM and the company’s two growing networks—the Tobacco Radio Network and the Tobacco Sports Network.
During the next few years Helms ran CBC’s radio news department and developed an intense interest in politics. He began spending spare time working on the 1950 U.S. Senate campaign of Willis Smith, who beat Frank Porter Graham in a hotly-contested election.
After the successful campaign, Senator Smith hired Helms away from WRAL and brought him to Washington as his Administrative Assistant. Helms served capably in that capacity until Smith died suddenly in 1953. He then worked briefly for Alton Lennon—Smith’s successor, but returned to Raleigh before the year ended.
In 1960, the time was right for a reunion between Jesse Helms and his old friend, A.J. Fletcher. In a move that would change his life and career, Helms joined Capitol Broadcasting Company as its Executive Vice President, Vice Chairman of the Board, and Assistant Executive Officer.
In his new role at CBC, Jesse Helms’ chief responsibility was to write and express the views and positions of the company on a variety of topics. He communicated those positions in daily editorials on WRAL-TV and Capitol Broadcasting’s radio outlets. The commentaries were called “Viewpoint,” and the segment title became synonymous with Jesse Helms.
In early 1972, Jesse Helms filed as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, and the Viewpoint editorials that had made him famous came to an end. Helms left Capitol Broadcasting Company and that fall won the bellwether election that would send him to Washington for the next thirty years.
Jesse Helms died July 4, 2008. He was 86.
This interview was conducted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree in 2006 for a special presentation of the 50th anniversary of the station.