Sally-Ann Roberts, who retired last year from WWL-TV as one of the city's most beloved and respected journalists, was inducted into the Louisiana Associated Press Broadcasters Hall of Fame Saturday night.
The AP, whose members include television, radio, print and digital news organizations, announced the honor in February.
Roberts retired from her role as anchor of the Eyewitness Morning News in February 2018. For more than 40 years, she has worked to communicate positive stories to south Louisiana television viewers, while also doing what she can to strengthen and inspire her audience – in ways both on-air and off. That includes finding the good in almost any story or interview she does, co-founding a mentorship program and serving as a highly sought-after motivational speaker and author. In the process, she has also become one of the most popular and recognizable faces on local television, as the longtime co-anchor of Channel 4’s Eyewitness Morning News.
“When you hear the name Sally-Ann, it represents all that is good about mornings in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana,” said WWL-TV President and General Manager Tod Smith. “She has reached that rare status of being an icon.”
“I appreciate the time that I spent here, the friends that I made, and this wonderful community,” Roberts said at the time of her retirement. “After much thought and prayer, I decided that it’s time to begin a new chapter in my life. I don’t know what the future holds but I look forward to continuing to serve this community in the years to come and spend more time with my grandchildren.”
Roberts joined the staff of WWL-TV on March 31, 1977, the same week as her former morning co-anchor, Eric Paulsen. As a City Hall reporter, she covered city government during the administrations of Moon Landrieu, Ernest “Dutch” Morial and Sidney Barthelemy. In 1988, she was a lead reporter on Channel 4’s breaking news coverage of the Cabildo fire. In 1998, she was part of the reporting team that earned WWL-TV the coveted Edward R. Murrow Award for breaking news. She played a key role in coverage of virtually every hurricane, election, special event and Mardi Gras celebration during her 40 years at the station.
For more than 25 years, she and Paulsen co-anchored the popular Eyewitness Morning News, building a bond with each other nearly as strong as the bond they have with their viewers, who made the newscast one of the highest-rated morning newscasts in the country. Over the years, in addition to mornings, Roberts anchored nearly every newscast on Channel 4, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends.
Certainly, her most cherished accomplishment occurred in the fall of 2012 when she donated her bone marrow to her sister Robin Roberts, the ABC News “Good Morning America” co-anchor who was suffering from a life-threatening disease called MDS. Throughout the process, Sally-Ann and Robin made a conscious decision to use their personal story to highlight the need for more bone marrow donors, through the “Be the Match” campaign. Both appeared in news stories (on WWL-TV and nationally), produced public service announcements and made public appearances at local donor recruitment drives.
That personal story which put her family (which also includes a sister, Dorothy, and brother, Butch) in the headlines was just one of thousands Sally-Ann Roberts has reported on over the years. While she has covered the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina (which claimed her home and most of her personal belongings) as well as countless other disasters, crimes and controversies, true to her character, she says she most enjoys reporting good news.
For more than 10 years, she produced reports on “Quiet Heroes,” volunteers in the community who are helping others. Also, in 1994, Roberts and her friend Cathy Harris co-founded the mentorship organization, Each One Save One. Over the years, the non-profit organization has recruited, screened, trained and placed hundreds of mentors in schools and organizations across the metro area.
For her work in the community, Roberts has received countless awards and recognition over the years, including from the Young Leadership Council, Urban League, YWCA, Junior League, Toastmasters International, Kiwanis International, The Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge, New Orleans Black Social Workers, The Children's Defense Fund and The New Orleans Conference for Community and Justice (formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews.)
Professionally, she has earned lifetime achievement honors from the Press Club of New Orleans and the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, and was part of the team which was honored with the Edward R. Murrow, George Foster Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
For nearly two decades on Channel 4 in the 1990s and early 2000s, Roberts also hosted a Saturday morning talk show for teenagers, "Our Generation.” Once again, she used this on-air platform to highlight the positive work of local young people, giving them a voice for their concerns and also spotlight the good work being done by student journalists, actors, musicians and athletes. Young people who appeared on that program are now working around the country as journalists, educators, engineers and other professions. Roberts is happy to say she knew them "when” and it is another example of her “paying it forward,” by inspiring the next generation.
As an Air Force "brat," Roberts traveled extensively as a child. She was born in Chandler, Arizona to Lucimarian and Colonel Lawrence Roberts, a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. She spent her childhood on the move, living in many cities throughout the country including abroad in Izmir, Turkey. When she was a junior in high school, her family settled in Biloxi, Mississippi at Keesler Air Force Base. She graduated from Biloxi High School and then attended the University of Southern Mississippi where she received both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
Aside from her career in the media, she is often in high demand as a motivational speaker across the country. Her audiences range from faith-based organizations to the corporate world including VITAS (National Black Nursing Association).
She is the author of three books: Going Live...An Anchorwoman Reports Good News, the novel Angelvision and the inspirational book, Your Power Is On, with photography by Eric Paulsen. All three books are published by Pelican Publishing.