Television newsrooms have a way of draining one’s idealism and optimism.
Journalists often see their big dreams swept under by waves of daily deadlines and demands. They watch too many co-workers depart for other industries, unwilling to withstand the toll and frustrations of the business. They see an industry changing and tightening while their stations’ ratings struggle to sustain. Their wide-eyed smiles turn into weary looks of acceptance.
But not Birnur Richardson.
She worked at my station in Atlanta, WXIA-TV, for more than three decades. She edited video for our morning show, taking the overnight shift to do it. Such a schedule often drains people more than deadlines, but not the person we all called “B”. No matter my mood in the morning, I would walk into the newsroom and receive the greeting of her smiling face. When Birnur retired last year, it left a hole in our building impossible to fill.
Birnur passed away this past weekend.
Unbeknownst to many of us, she had been battling aggressive cancer for several months. I was stunned and saddened by the news, as were many of my colleagues.
I am struggling today to find the words to explain the rarity and beauty of B’s spirit. Thankfully, several of my colleagues have put forth poignant words of appreciation, and I would like to share them with you.
Bumble B: Fellow reporter Jerry Carnes entered the 11Alive orbit at the same time as Birnur. I can honestly picture and relate to every memory he shares, such as this one:
Years passed. B drifted to the morning shift, and eventually, so did I. A newsroom can be a solemn, grumpy place at 3 a.m., unless you employ Birnur Richardson. Nothing could [faze] her. Editing glitches, computer problems, system breakdowns. She handled it all with polite professionalism. And if you had an issue, somehow she would break away from her job of editing two-and-a-half hours of videotape to help. Never, not once, did I ever hear B speak a cross word to anyone. Ever.
A difficult day for 11Alive: In a Facebook post the morning after B passed, reporter and morning shifter Jennifer Leslie offered her own memories — as well as photos displaying B’s delightful smile:
I will never forget how kind and loving she was after my boys were born. She was the first to grab and squeeze them during their newsroom visits, and she ALWAYS asked about them. She was an incredible role model who raised the most impressive children. She had a full plate but always had time for those around her.
Finally, I urge you to watch this five-minute video made last year for B’s retirement. I actually never saw it last year, but when a co-worker posted it earlier this week, I watched and nearly cried. Even while describing the mundane details of life on the morning shift, B cannot help but smile. And when video plays over her voice, she sounds like she’s smiling.
I will always remember that smile. I will always remember B.