Following stories outside the station, Susan transcends "anchor"

(Columbia) February 28, 2006 - Susan let everyone know from the very beginning that she came to be a complete broadcast journalist. That meant she wanted to be wherever news was happening.

She didn't know or accept the limits, "I was young and I was naive. I didn't know that, you know, people in wheelchairs didn't go into broadcast, and how rare or unusual that was. That was just the job I wanted."

She was fresh out of college, only a few years removed from a near-fatal car crash. But in 1978, Susan Aude was ready to begin breaking down barriers.

With no broadcasting experience, Susan rolled into South Carolina's most dominant television station, and convinced management a woman in a wheelchair could deliver weekend weather.

During that first broadcast, "I was scared to death, and I was trying to remember the states."

And even then, she was thinking ahead, "You know, I wanted to be, hard news. And weather, to me, I thought of that as a means of getting my foot in the door."

Before long, weather girl Susan Aude became reporter Susan Aude, overcoming her physical limitations with a little help from her friends.

Former WIS photographer Lonnie Wehunt says, "Anyone who was watching probably got a good laugh out of it. But we piled equipment on top of Susan's lap, and then we'd go pushing her off to our locations."

Former WIS photographer Tom Posey also worked with Susan, "And it evolved into reporters, photographers picking her up, putting her in the news van, carrying her to a story, taking her out of the news van, putting her in her chair."

To Susan, it was what was necessary to get the job done, "If there was a news conference on the second story of a building and there was no elevator, I couldn't go back to the station and say, 'Oh, they didn't have a ramp. I didn't get the story, you know, they didn't have an elevator.' I had to figure out a way to get up there."

Posey remembers one story, "We were worried about covering a fire. And the thought was, well how is she going to get over all the fire hoses? She's going to be landlocked in a bunch of hoses and she won't be able to get out. She'll be trapped in there around these hoses. That was never a problem for her, it was just my problem. It was me thinking about it, but it never became an issue."

Susan's credibility as a reporter, and her popularity with viewers, put her in line for the anchor desk. First, she had the midday newscast. And in 1982, general manager Dixon Lavvorn decided to add a woman's voice to the station's most important production, the 7:00 report, "One of our staff members said, 'You ought to take a real look at Susan at midday.' And I hadn't even thought about it much. So we did. And I realized that we had a gem right here on our own station. And so we moved her first into 7:00 and then later into both 7:00 and 11:00. And she took off."

Teamed with veteran newsman Ed Carter, Susan became one of the state's most trusted journalists.

To Wehunt, her skill was obvious, "She comes across on the air as a real person. And that's the way she is, and I think that really helps the viewing audience relate to her."

As the years went by, Susan never lost interest in going outside 1111 Bull Street to get the big story.

She says, "People with disabilities are the same as anyone else, the same kind of hopes and desires and aspirations that other people have. We just have to go about it in different ways."

For Susan Aude, her way was to become the anchor who refused to stay in one place.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted 10:00pm by Chantelle Janelle