Being a television news anchor is an unusual job. Those who do it well inspire trust and comfort, enough to be invited into strangers’ homes day after day. Those who really shine manage to build close bonds not just with the people they cover but with viewers they’ve never met.
In New Orleans, a city that’s produced more than its share of broadcast icons, Nancy Parker, who died last week in a small plane accident while on a reporting assignment, was among the best. An anchor at WVUE-TV in New Orleans for more than two decades — and before that, at WAFB in Baton Rouge — she was warm, smart, unassumingly competent and frequently joyful on air. Coworkers, friendly professional rivals and some of the many people she interviewed say she was the same person when the cameras were off.
“If you watched TV for 20-something years and you thought you knew Nancy Parker, you pretty much did. That was it,” fellow anchor John Snell said during an emotional on-air tribute hours after her death.
“She was as genuine as they come,” added investigative reporter and anchor Lee Zurik.
Parker garnered lots of awards during her career, including five Emmys. She interviewed President George W. Bush and Fats Domino, and led coverage of the widespread use of tainted drywall during the rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. She also wrote children’s books and supported multiple community causes.
Above all, her colleagues said, she was a born storyteller, and she was said to be excited to profile Franklin J.P. Augustus, a well-known stunt pilot and member of a group honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, who also died in Friday’s crash. We offer our sympathies to his family as well as hers.
As fellow members of Louisiana’s journalism community, we also extend our condolences to Parker’s colleagues at WVUE. Newsrooms are tight-knit places, and we know how wrenching it must have been to report the story even as they were processing the horrific news. They handled the difficult assignment with grace.
Parker wasn’t a born New Orleanian, but grew to treasure it as many a transplant has. In 2018 she penned a “love letter” to her adopted home, in which she recalled visiting from Alabama as a child and feeling as if she’d found a “charming friend.” The spell never wore off.
“There is a story around every amazing corner, under every bridge, and in every tall building. There is life in every old brick. Before you know it, you are changed, with the beat of a second line parade, or the hypnotic scent of Magnolia and sweet olive that is like a Sazerac Cocktail in the air,” Parker wrote. “Is she perfect? No. But her flaws can be covered by the smiles she brings. Through fires, floods, and hurricanes the spirit never dies. It makes her stronger. She's made me better.”
In sharing both its beauty and its shortcomings with generations of viewers, Nancy Parker made Louisiana better, too.