Recently, I was reading about how some scientists say they have located a "generosity gene," which predisposes one to altruistic behavior. I was amazed to discover this good-naturedness has been documented in even insects and bacteria. This got me wondering: If altruism can be found in a one-celled creature, could TV newspeople be far behind?
Being involved in charity work during off-hours is a big part of being a local news personality. It's one of the tried-and-true PR tactics of new stations.
Then again, just because a news reporter pitches in to help his community doesn't mean he or she is simply taking one for the news team. The reporter might actually be down with the cause.
* Longtime KDKA alum Brenda Waters tops my list of altruistic reporters. While Waters has definitely been on the receiving end of many a joke about her "Good News" segment -- which is now called "On a Positive Note" -- over the years, I've come to appreciate her. In fact, I've reconciled myself to the idea that she's right: The word "news" shouldn't come with a negative connotation. Waters has an impressive list of things close to her heart, including Gwen's Girls, Myriam's Women's Shelter, Lydia's Place and Women Inc. of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most outstanding thing I read about her -- which may be further proof that altruism and generosity is at least, in part, genetic -- is that her parents had always told her: "The only time you look down at someone is when you are reaching down to pick them up."
* KDKA news shark Paul Martino has his own special style of giving: employing his musical talents as a keyboardist with his band The Mystic Knights for assorted charity events. While a Google search for the band didn't exactly yield a flood of results, I still think it's groovy. Meantime, keep on practicing. Someday. Maybe.
* David Johnson, who, with Peggy Finnegan, is half of Pittsburgh's longest-running anchor-duo, is probably best known for his involvement with the muscular dystrophy telethon which he helps host every year. It's a miracle that his parched sense of humor has never started a brush fire in the studio. He also volunteers weekly as a babysitter at the NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women) Children's Waiting Room at the Allegheny Family Court Building. I have a feeling Johnson makes one hell of an entertaining sitter.
* Sports anchor Alby Oxenreiter may work for the town's most awkwardly-named newscast, "Channel 11 News on Fox 53 at 10 p.m.," but there's nothing inelegant about his "altruistic involvement," which includes the Multiple Sclerosis Service Society, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and St. Anthony's School programs for children with special needs. With a full-time job which also includes reporting for the Channel 11 news, and a family that includes three kids, it's pretty cool he finds the time to do this. That's not just reporting on good sportsmanship, that's demonstrating it.
* WPXI's Timyka Artist is a great example of beauty that's more than skin deep. Some of our local blogs have affectionately referred to the hottie as "Tiki" but we ask them to kindly look beyond her physical attributes and instead, focus on her impressive resume of giving. She's involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (this year, celebrating its 25th "Race for the Cure," on May 11), the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. That's very attractive.
* Don't be fooled by Sheldon Ingram's tough-guy image. The 16-year WTAE vet is all soft and squishy on the inside. Ingram serves on the board of advisers for The Children's Defense Fund (for homeless children), and is a member of the Community Council for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He also volunteers at the Children's Institute. I still wouldn't pinch him on the cheeks if I were you, though.
* Janelle Hall of WTAE "follows in her father's footsteps," according to her online biography, volunteering as a mentor for a local teen-ager in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Plus, she's a member of the local St. Anthony Charitable Foundation Board, helping students with developmental disabilities obtain scholarships. See, even when you've got to take time out for hair and makeup, you can still find time to volunteer.
* And last, but not least, who is not aware of the grand dame of local television news, WTAE's Sally Wiggin, and her philanthropic efforts with the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium?