Hiring Susan

(Columbia) March 1, 2006 - She showed up on our TV sets one spring weekend. She was a smiling, nervous young woman, talking about highs and lows and hours of sunshine.

Susan doesn't have a high opinion of those first weather reports, "It was awful. You know, I was terrible. You know, I look back at those tapes and I go, argh, what were they thinking when they hired me? You know I just got lucky or something."

A lot of things were different in May of 1978. Moviegoers were still a couple months from their first visit to "Animal House." The president was a peanut farmer. And there was no such thing as the American Disabilities Act.

So in addition to the challenge of being a rookie broadcaster, Susan Aude had to get into her new job on Bull Street by having someone lift her up the steps.

Getting into a bathroom was even harder. For a while, Susan had to travel down the street to the Rutledge Building, home of the State Education Department.

In fact, former news director Don Ambrose remembers the accessibility problem almost stopped her career before it even started. He tells Susan, "I was in my office, you know, sitting there, waiting. The time for your job interview had gone past. It was another 10 to 15 minutes later. And I said well, this is one who's not going to get a job here. If you can't show up for your job interview on time, you're not gong to work for WIS-TV news. Then I thought, and I walked out the front door and looked down the steps, the white columns by my side, and there you were, looking up at WIS. And I realized that we had no handicapped access. And you said, very graciously, 'I have found out that if I sit here long enough, someone will come and help me.' And so I did. And the rest is history."

Susan impressed former WIS general manager Dixon Lovvorn as well, "She handled it so well that after a while as you know, you don't think of her as being handicapped. She doesn't want you to think of her that way. And before long, the staff and I think the public too just did not have that in mind with her."

Throughout her career, Susan helped viewers realize that you don't need to be standing up to be thinking on your feet.

Former WIS anchor Lou Green says, "This is someone who came into this building in the late 1970s capable of handling and running her life in spite of some other challenges. You didn't have to make exceptions that mattered."

"If the person is doing their job, you just don't notice."

In many ways, what we now call WIS News 10 is radically different from the news operation that Susan joined in 1978. Faster paced, driven by ever-changing technology.

But relating to viewers is still what it's all about. And that isn't stopping for Susan, "I think I will enjoy the fruits of that because I'll still run into people and they'll say hi, you know we enjoyed watching you and that kind of thing and you still have that connection with people, so that's what I hope will continue."

For 27 years, no one's been connecting quite like Susan Aude.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted 6:45pm by Chantelle Janelle