1970s talk show host Joan Mack reflects on time at Channel 5

1970s talk show host Joan Mack reflects on time at Channel 5

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Joan Mack, one of the first women of color at Channel 5 in the early 70's, recently stopped by the station to reminisce on her days as a talk show host in the Lowcountry and to help Live 5 News celebrate its 60th anniversary.

"We were kind of considered when you look back at it, the local Oprah Winfrey show at that time because we did the same things," said Mack. We had fun. We had an exercise segment, we had a cooking segment, we had a medical segment."

Mack was hired to co-host a morning talk show on Channel 5 in 1972. But this biology major wasn't convinced she was cut out for television, so she had a backup plan.

"I worked in the morning co-hosting the Morning Scene with then Ken Crook, and then I worked from 12 until 5 still teaching. I didn't want to give up my day job because I didn't know how this was going to work out," the former talk show host said.

She landed at Channel 5 at the nudge of civil rights activists, who wanted to see more faces of color on the news. When she came to fill out the application, she was interviews and hired on the spot.

According to Mack, the pressure was on immediately.

"I had the responsibility of excelling for women in general, and specifically for American-American women," she said.

Mack quickly gained fans and earned a solid reputation with viewers for her work on The Morning Scene and other talk shows.

"When I did stories or interviewed someone on a serious topic like domestic violence or child abuse, I got a lot of comments from people who would say thank you for covering that topic," said Mack.

She also got the chance to rub elbows with some up and coming stars of CBS at the time. She spoke with everyone from Isabel Sanford of The Jeffersons, funnyman Jerry Stiller, heartthrob Robert Wagner, and Esther Rolle of Good Times.

As Mack walked through the Live 5 Newsroom, she saw some familiar faces and was greeted with open arms. She says she was always careful to give viewers that same warmth and respect.

"I had to let people know that I was approachable, because it was a tendency they hadn't seen before so they put you on a pedestal. Then I realized that the people who put you on a pedestal could also knock you off the pedestal."

There were so few African Americans and women in broadcast journalism in the early 70's, Mack says it was difficult finding a role model to emulate.

"When I went out of town and went on vacations in other states, I looked at TV a lot to see if I could see someone who looked like me, and look at their style of delivery and the way they dressed, everything about them," Mack recalled. "But I didn't see that. So I then convinced myself that I had to develop my own style. I had to be responsible for how I presented myself."

After numerous awards and accolades for her work, Mack left Channel 5 in 1978. To this day, she is grateful to Live 5 and honored that the community trusted her to handle such an important role in their lives.

"I was actually there for that reason and it wasn't all about me. It was about the opportunity I got to make a difference in their lives. And I took that seriously," Mack said.

Mack says she is proud of the work she did, and feels that she helped pave the way for other blacks and women to be successful in the TV news business.

The former television host retired from the College of Charleston in 2009, and is now enjoying being a wife and grandmother.

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