WSB anchor Jovita Moore dies of brain cancer

Metro area teen planning a swim a thon in honor of Jovita Moore as she battle brain cancer
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Metro area teen planning a swim a thon in honor of Jovita Moore as she battle brain cancer

Channel 2 Action News anchor Jovita Moore died Thursday night of brain cancer. She was 54.

Moore had surgery in April to remove two brain tumors after experiencing what she said at the time was “brain fog.” At that time, doctors discovered she also had glioblastoma, an aggressive, incurable form of brain cancer. She was treated with radiation and chemotherapy. Moore told viewers the news on WSB-TV in July.

WSB-TV aired an audio message later that month from Moore. She thanked her supporters for their cards and gifts and “positive energy. I feel all of it. I’m home now, I’m up and about and doing everything my doctors tell me to do. So for now, I need to be here to focus on my health. I’m surrounded by my family, a very small circle of friends, but also your extended love and support. This journey for me started with an unusual headache so if something’s not right with you, I urge you to please get yourself checked.”

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Born in New York City, Moore credited her mother Yvonne for instilling in her a love for journalism. “I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment, and we only had one TV. So when my mother came home from work and turned on the news, I would sit there and watch with her,” Moore told Best Self Atlanta magazine in 2014. “I was the kid who always knew current events. I read the paper as a child, The New York Times and the Daily News, and then I would go to school and talk about it.”

Moore earned a bachelor’s degree at Bennington College in Vermont and interned at The New York Times. Later, she received a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Columbia University. Before coming to WSB-TV in 1998, she worked at stations in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee.

In 2001, she won an Emmy for her piece “Women and Fibroids” after a doctor found she had fibroids. “It was a great feeling of satisfaction for me that I had won because it was my labor of love. It was a story that I felt was important and educational for women and viewers,” she told Best Self Atlanta.

Over the years, Moore won other Emmy awards and covered events such as President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

She became a lead WSB-TV evening anchor in 2012 after Monica Pearson retired.

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Left to right - Jovita Moore, Justin Farmer, Monica Pearson and Glenn Burns celebrate the career of Monica Pearson in 2012. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Left to right - Jovita Moore, Justin Farmer, Monica Pearson and Glenn Burns celebrate the career of Monica Pearson in 2012. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Caption
Left to right - Jovita Moore, Justin Farmer, Monica Pearson and Glenn Burns celebrate the career of Monica Pearson in 2012. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

“Jovita was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” said Craig Lucie, who worked with her as a WSB anchor from 2011 to 2019. “I have never been on the news desk with someone who could handle a breaking news situation as well as Jovita Moore could. If something broke in southwest Atlanta, she knew what street it was on, what the neighborhood was like.”

He said he never saw her sweat. “She was always in control on the news desk,” he said. “She knew how to treat a story. She could do something uplifting like the Falcons going to the Super Bowl, then segue into devastating news.”

Lucie said she was fun to work with. “The most memorable things happened while we were not on the air,” he said. “We would crack each other up during commercial breaks. It can be chaotic, and we’d be doing voiceovers and flub something and burst out laughing. We would dance.”

Justin Farmer, her co-anchor on the evening news, broke the news of her death on WSB-TV at 9:48 a.m. today.

“Oh, how we love our friend,” Farmer said, after the station aired a segment about her. “There is no making sense of a tragic death such as this. The pain is going to stay for awhile. We pray for her children. I’ll share this with you. Jovita told me a few weeks ago when we visited in her living room. She said, ‘Yup, Farmer, got a bad hand. Sometimes, that is just life.’”

Farmer, in an interview Friday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said their on-air chemistry was very much a friendship when the cameras were not trained on them.

“We would talk about things off air, the toughest topics of the day from race relations to politics,” Farmer said. “We became such pals and respected each other. We are able to have meaningful conversations even if we saw the world differently on topics A, B or C. Those perspectives would then flow through our newscasts.”

While she was off air during the past six months, WSB anchors such as Farmer and Jorge Estevez would make a point to mention her regularly at the top and end of each newscast.

“Until she was gone, I was going to honor and pray for her return,” Farmer said. “That’s what she wanted. Who am I to say a miracle couldn’t happen?”

Moore was active in the community, emceeing countless charity events.

Pearson, her predecessor, said Moore replaced her as an emcee for Meals on Wheels.

“She did something else,” she told Fred Blankenship during the Channel 2 noon broadcast. “Her children during the holidays would got with her to deliver meals. They saw her, a caring mother who wanted to teach her children about the reason you should give back. That’s what I’m missing about her: her giving spirit.”

Moore was a popular figure on Twitter, commenting on TV shows she watched or the latest beef between hip-hop stars.

“She leveraged social media early and people were drawn to her authenticity,” Farmer said.

Moore, in an interview with online magazine GAFollowers in 2016, fended off the idea she was a big shot. “People say, ‘Oh you’re a celebrity,’ and I think, ‘No, I’m a news person,’ “Moore said. “I just don’t see myself that way at all.”

Pearson said she isn’t going to mourn Moore, but celebrate her: “I am going to share the message she taught me: ‘You don’t get to just live in this community, you have to be part of this community.’ No matter what you have, you have to give it to everyone else. Jovita was a giver.”

She is survived by her mother Yvonne Moore, her two children Shelby Griffith and Josh Griffith and her step-daughter Lauren Griffith.

Moore in recent months requested viewers donate to two charities she cared about: Our House Atlanta, which helps homeless families, and The National Brain Tumor Society.

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