WISH-TV’s David Barras To Retire, Anchor Last Newscast On Friday
INDIANAPOLIS – David Barras has had Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 on his mind since his first day as a full-time employee at WISH-TV on July 21, 1980.
Barras recalls the moment like it had happened more recently than four decades ago. He had just been hired by WISH-TV News Director Lee Giles and was filling out the standard new-hire paperwork in the office of a human resources employee.
“One of the benefits at the time was a pension. When you sit down and they fill out that paperwork, they give you a retirement date. The [human resources] person at the time said [my] anticipated retirement date is Dec. 1, 2017, and I remember laughing. I said, I don’t even know if I’ll be on Earth on Dec. 1, 2017,” Barras said with a chuckle.
When it came time for Barras to talk with his wife Kathy about his retirement, that “anticipated” date of Dec. 1, 2017 was still stuck in his head.
“[My wife and I] looked on the calendar and Dec. 1 is a Friday. I said, that’s perfect. That’s the date we’ll do it just as H.R. said to me in 1980,” said Barras.
David Barras at his desk in the WISH-TV newsroom (Photo credit: C.J. Miller / WIBC)
DAVID BARRAS GETS HIS START IN TELEVISION
As a kid growing up in Chicago, Barras had dreams of following in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite and other anchors and reporters working for local television stations such as WBBM, WMAQ, WLS and WGN.
“A lot of little boys growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s wanted to be secret agents, firemen, policemen. I always wanted to be a news guy. I would borrow my dad’s earmuffs and pretend I was doing live reports from the scene somewhere. That was just what I wanted to do,” says Barras, who earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. But, he says he struggled to find his foot in the door.
“I was a security guard at K-Mart, I sold artificial flowers and I sold cars before I got a break.”
Barras decided to go to Ball State University to earn his Master’s Degree, which led him to an internship at WISH-TV in Indianapolis upon the advice of his professor David Smith.
“He said, ‘I’m going to send you down to [WISH-TV Channel 8]. They’re great people and I think you’ll fit in really well.’ If David Smith hadn’t sent me [to WISH-TV] for an internship, none of this might have ever happened,” says Barras, who then got his first on-air television reporting job at WTVW in Evansville.
BARRAS BEGINS HIS 37-YEAR CAREER AT WISH-TV
After less than a year in Evansville, Barras says he received a call from WISH-TV’s long-time News Director Lee Giles asking to see a “demo tape” of his on-air work at WTVW for consideration of a full-time position in Indianapolis.
“I was petrified [meeting with Lee Giles] during my internship. Lee just looked straight ahead at me and said, ‘What can you do for us?’ I remember saying, ‘I’ll do whatever. I don’t care what the hours are, I don’t care what the job is. Whatever you want, I’ll do.’ Fortunately, that made a difference to him,” according to Barras.
It was Barras’s work as a reporter, along with photojournalist Jim Hester, that led WISH-TV to break the story of the Baltimore Colts moving to Indianapolis in May 1984.
Barras and Hester were both at the Indianapolis International Airport and saw a corporate jet belonging to the Colts organization. The two spotted the Chief Legal Counsel for the Colts who agreed to an on-camera interview to say the Colts were on their way to moving their offices and equipment to Indianapolis. Once Barras and Hester had finished the interview, they took it to then-Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut’s office and played him the tape. Hudnut was then able to confirm to WISH-TV that the Colts was making Indianapolis their new home.
“That was a great story for us,” says Barras with a smile.
David Barras sits behind the WISH-TV anchor desk in the news studio. (Photo credit: C.J. Miller / WIBC)
“DAVE AND RANDY” ANCHOR ‘DAYBREAK’ FOR 21 YEARS
After having worked as a reporter for nearly five years, a new opportunity became available for Barras at WISH-TV. The station had just started a live morning newscast in 1984 called ‘Daybreak’ after years of running Captain Kangaroo and children’s programming. Barras was asked to be the early morning news anchor in 1985.
“Nobody thought there would be an audience for [morning news]. One of the reasons I got that job is when the opening came up, nobody wanted to do it. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’” which led to Barras anchoring ‘Daybreak’ for 21 years along with WISH-TV meteorologist Randy Ollis, who was hired in 1984.
“[Randy] and I just hit it off. We have the same sense of humor like adolescent boys. We’re just silly guys. We are that way to this very day.”
Barras says that the expectations for ‘Daybreak’ were low, which allowed both he and Ollis the freedom to take a more laid-back approach to the newscast and gave the two an opportunity to joke around with each other on-air.
What started as a half-hour long morning newscast at 6 a.m. grew in viewership and popularity. Barras and Ollis became known to WISH-TV’s loyal viewers as “Dave and Randy” as Hoosiers woke up watching the two on their televisions and invited the friendly duo into their homes as if they were members of their extended families.
Barras left the ‘Daybreak’ anchor desk and became a general assignment reporter and evening anchor in 2007. The new role meant he wouldn’t be waking up at 1:30 a.m., be in at the station at 2:30 a.m. and go on live at 5 a.m.
BARRAS’ LAST DAY AND RETIREMENT
What affect will Barras’ absence after his retirement have on the WISH-TV newsroom?
“[Dave] sets the tone. Things aren’t going to be the same around here. He’s friendly, he’s more concerned about what’s happening in our lives and he genuinely cares,” says WISH-TV news reporter Elizabeth Choi who says she watched Barras when she was growing up in central Indiana.
What does life look like for David Barras beginning Saturday, Dec. 2 on his first day of retirement?
“My wife and I have been married 42 years and together almost 45. This should be interesting for us because we’re going to be together a lot. We’re excited about it now. I’m guessing maybe a month into it, my wife will be saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to get a part-time job or go back to work for a little bit? Call Channel 8 and see if they need you!’” says Barras jokingly.
Has David Barras given much thought to his final newscast at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1?
“My wife has continually said, ‘Dave, are you going to write something?’ And I will, but I’ll get it. It’s in my head, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
Will Barras’ final thoughts be anything like another former television news anchor?
“I hope my 'final thoughts' are NOT like Jerry Springer!” Barras says as he laughs out loud.
Photo credits: C.J. Miller / WIBC