Former HLN anchor Bobbie Battista (1952-2020) has died
Bobbie Battista: Battista rose from the ranks of secretary to become the first female news anchor of her station in Raleigh, N.C. CNN called in 1981, and she joined sister network Headline News as an original anchor before moving to CNN in 1988 as host of "World Day,” “News Hour” and others. She went on to cover nearly every major news story over the next two decades including: the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and the fall of the Soviet Union. Following changes at CNN after AOL’s merger with Time Warner in 2001, Battista decided to leave the network. She now hosts “On the Story,” a nightly news program on Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Bobbie Battista, when she was teaching Emory University journalism classes in the mid-2000s, invited me several times to talk to her students. She was a delight to hang out with.
Bobbie Battista, one of the original CNN Headline News anchors, has died of cervical cancer. She was 67.
Battista worked at Headline News and CNN from 1981 until 2002 and was one of the network’s more popular anchors both inside and outside CNN Center.
She also hosted “TalkBack Live” on CNN for several years in the CNN atrium featuring a live audience and prominent guests.
"Bobbie was the consummate trooper in her struggle with cancer, she was courageous and fearless in her battle and thoughtful for all the others in her life even as she fought through the pain," Battista's husband John Brimelow said in a statement Tuesday. "My dear partner of 25 years of marriage has cut her earthly bonds and is now in peace."
Chuck Roberts, also a CNN Headline News "original," called her "unflappable and poised - the one you'd want in the trenches when major breaking news erupted. I will miss her dearly."
Lynne Russell, a fellow CNN Headline News anchor during the same time period, extolled her professionalism and her sense of humor.
“On one warm Atlanta day,” Russell said, “we went to lunch and sat outside, configured at the table as if we were about to do the news, but with margaritas in front of us. Passers-by fell into each other as they tried to process that picture!”
Flip Spiceland, the retired meteorologist who worked with Battista at CNN in the mid-1980s for a late morning show, today posted an out-take from publicity photos on his Facebook page in which she, Spiceland and co-anchor Lou Waters posed cross-eyed.
“She was able to laugh at herself no matter what the circumstance,” Spiceland said in an interview today. “People teased her about her eyes even though they were actually normal. So she was the one who suggested we take that photo. We thought it was hilarious. It was never released officially but Bobbie and Lou showed it to everybody. And I still have the 8x10 glossy.”
Spiceland said she could interview anybody, from heads of state to members of Aerosmith. "She had equal expertise in both but she preferred Aerosmith," he said.
He said he’s seen his share of demanding and diva-like anchors. Battista was the opposite.
“She treated everyone well, from the production assistant to the intern,”he said. “She always made the newsroom fun... And she would never say anything on the air to me that would leave me hanging. She felt so confident and so secure. Nothing that came out of her mouth ever felt awkward.”
Battista, a Northwestern graduate who worked at a Raleigh TV station before coming to CNN, covered almost every major news event over her 20-year span there from the Challenger disaster to the Berlin Wall falling to 9/11.
Bob Furnad, who ran Headline News for many years, recalled her fervent following. In 1989, during the Berlin Wall being torn down, he recalled Tom Mintier on top of the wall doing his report. During a commercial break, Mintier asked them to pan the camera down and Fernad saw several soldiers with the sign "We love Bobbie Battista!"
CNN never used that footage. “We weren’t into patting ourselves on the back,” Furnad said.
After she left CNN, she worked with her husband's communications firm and taught journalism classes at Emory. She more recently did work for Georgia Public Broadcasting and was a corporate communications director for ExpressJet Airlines, according to her LinkedIn page.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.