When it was announced last month that WDSU anchorman Scott Walker was leaving broadcast news on July 27, it came as a surprise to both his employers and the viewing audience. After all, who walks away from a successful career at the age of 43, especially when the 6 p.m. newscast with his co-anchor Sula Kim has become No. 1?
“I just knew it was time,” said Walker. “I never imagined I’d be anchoring the news in my 60s, not even my 50s. I’ve heard people say they must not have renewed my contract, or they asked me to take a pay cut, but that just isn’t it. I know some people find it perplexing, but I just want new challenges. And, my family understands.”
Family is a major factor in Walker’s decision to walk away. He'd like to have dinner with his 12- and 8-year old boys, attend their games, show up at school functions. Anchoring the late newscasts has meant he’s not around when the kids come home from school, nor when they go to bed. For Walker, that was a sacrifice he didn’t want to make anymore.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” said his boss, news director Akili Franklin. “He’s been a real force in the newsroom as far as gathering content, being on top of breaking news stories and making sure we are covering all aspects of an issue.”
Walker has been in the news business for 23 years. It might seem longer to him, since he spent so much time as a kid in radio stations with his father, Bob Walker, a longtime radio personality in New Orleans.
As the nomadic life of a newscaster goes, upward mobility took Scott Walker from newsrooms in Hattiesburg and Jackson to Biloxi and Mobile, and on to Orlando before he arrived back in 2009 in his hometown of New Orleans.
“He was at another Hearst station in Orlando where he was doing the morning news," said the man who hired him, former WDSU news director Jonathan Shelley, now a news director in Indiana. "And although New Orleans was a smaller market, it was a chance to move into prime-time newscasts."
In New Orleans, Walker also had the chance to do special projects like his reports on former Saints player Steve Gleason, for which he won two Emmys.
The next step up the ladder in TV would mean a heavy schedule of travel or even uprooting the family again. Walker admitted those opportunities have presented themselves. But Walker and his wife, Jennifer, who is from Labadieville, decided their family's future was in Louisiana.
Walker is now the co-owner of a Shipley’s Donuts on Metairie Road, with more shops to come. He's also begun the Scott Walker Consulting firm, doing public relations and social media training.
“I realize that going from news anchor to doughnut shop owner seems like a weird transition, but I loved these particular doughnuts in college in Mississippi,” said Walker.
The Houston-based chain has more than 300 locations, though Walker's are the first in Southeastern Louisiana.
"I grew up on McKenzie’s, and these pastries seemed the closest thing to it. I saw a for lease sign on a Metairie Road lot and started making phone calls, but I wasn’t sure I could make a Shipley’s actually happen," Walker said.
"I talked to a couple of people about coming on board as partners, and then I did something unusual. I went to the chapel at St. Catherine’s, a (part of the) church I’d never stepped foot in before.”
He asked for a sign that this was actually the right thing to do. Twenty minutes later, he drove back down Metairie Road, only to find that the for lease sign had been taken down, and a developer’s sign was in its place.
“I asked for a sign,” remembered Walker, “and I got a literal sign.”
He called the developer and signed the lease in June 2017.
“I think Scott is a natural on television —he was born to do this, “ Kim said. “He’s like the brother I never had, and I’m really going to miss him.”
But Walker's ability to change hats quickly means anything could be possible. Maybe even a run at politics? As they say in the business... stay tuned.