After a rough 2019, former TV anchor Carole Nelson Pond has big plans for 2020. She hopes to publish a memoir.
“It’s about being the first woman to do a lot of things in Florida,” said Pond, 81. “#MeToo is here now. People in the ‘60s and ‘70s like me were on the front line. That’s what the memoir is about, trying to show the different challenges we had. We weren’t worried about harassment. We wanted a place at the table.”
In sharing her health battles via Facebook in 2019, Pond realized she still has a fan base from her years as the first woman to anchor at night in the Orlando TV market. (She was known then as Carole Nelson.) Her editor is Robin Smythe, former general manager at Central Florida News 13.
“We are in the very early stages of organizing and editing,” Smythe said. “You can rest assured it will be a candid, humorous and revealing story of a remarkable woman in a remarkable time in the broadcast news industry. In many ways, Carole set the standard in the Orlando market for decades to come.”
As the mother of three sons, Pond says she was torn about being in the news business. She started in radio at WDBO in the 1970s, working as a reporter, then a talk show host. She would receive invitations to speak all over the state, encouraging women and describing their goals to men’s clubs.
“Men wanted to know. I wasn’t hostile. I wanted to explain who we are,” she said. “We wanted equal pay, a chance at the jobs. Those are the things we pressed for. I think there’s a message for women today. That’s what it was back then: Just give me a chance.”
She jumped to television in 1976, beginning at WFTV-Channel 9. She had a lot of freedom in anchoring at noon, she said, because the thinking was that “just women and old people were watching.”
When WFTV reneged on a promise to let her anchor at night in 1978 — consultants told the station that male viewers wanted credibility that a woman couldn’t supply — she walked out. But WFTV General Manager Walter Windsor asked her to lunch and came through with the promised evening job.
“Carole earned her stripes the hard way,” Smythe said. “She set the bar pretty darned high for local news anchors — male or female. She doesn’t let anything or anyone stand in her way and uses her wisdom as the rudder to reach her goal."
In 1982, Pond moved to WCPX-Channel 6 (now WKMG), where she faced new challenges. “It was a great time for me, but when I first moved, there was a backlash against me,” she said. “There were a lot of things I needed to fight at Channel 6.”
Smythe, who worked with Pond at Channel 6, recalled that the anchor in the early ’80s formed a support group called Broads in Broadcasting. Pond said she “encouraged women to go for it. Don’t ask for permission. Just do it.”
When it came to money, stations told Pond they were paying for her clothes and hairstyles. Her response: “That doesn’t feed my kids. I want equal pay.”
In 1987, Pond returned to WFTV, thinking she would get a major anchor slot. She was fired two years later. “I was faced with new management and hostility from anchors who worried I would replace them," she said. “That was one of the worst times of my life.”
In the memoir, Pond discusses the ageism she faced. “When I turned 50, it was like I had developed a horrible disease,” she said. “The news director said, ‘You need to dress your age.’ I thought, ‘Dress my age?’ The feeling was when you hit 50, it was all over.”
She was hardly done, though. She worked in radio, moved to Seattle, did more radio, taught, returned to Central Florida, taught some more and started her own business. Her sons are a Navy commander in Guam, a professor at the University of Georgia and an internet businessman in Oregon. Pond has six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
She and her third husband, Sonny Pond, live in Deltona. She credits him with helping her through a series of health battles, including atrial fibrillation (AFib), a broken pelvis and hip, pneumonia and congestive heart failure.
Yet things are looking up as 2020 begins. Her pacemaker is working, she is moving with the aid of a walker, and she wants to share what she learned from her latest struggles.
“I really want everybody to find a message in whatever they’re going through,” Pond says. “You have to find a message in whatever you’re going through, a way for you to grow. Find the message and embrace it.”
She is following the example of her mother, who lived to 97. “She never stopped until she died,” Pond said. “That joie de vivre was instilled in me. There have been tough times along the way, but there’s something right around the corner that will be good. My life has been a series of adventures. I’m an adventurer.”
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