TV anchor/reporter Suzanne (Page) Wangler, in a promotional shot from her last station. (WLAJ-TV photo via the Detroit News).
For a while, Ms. Wangler seemed to lead a storybook life. She married a former star quarterback for the University of Michigan, began a family, and bought a large house in the suburbs. Her television career was also moving along nicely. By the early 1990s, she was reporting for Channel 50 in Detroit, then a Fox affiliate.
A few years later, Wangler moved up to WDIV-TV, the local NBC outlet, where she worked primarily as the station’s helicopter reporter. Personally and professionally, her future looked bright.
But just as quickly, Ms. Wangler’s life began to spiral out of control. Her marriage faltered, amid allegations of domestic abuse and personal protection orders that were later dismissed. After her divorce, Wangler’s personal woes only multiplied; Mike Martindale of the Detroit News continues the sad narrative:
Ms. Wangler was buried earlier this week and debate over how her story was covered will gradually fade, even in the heated world of television news. But that won’t change the fact that four children are without their mother, and what’s left of Wangler's reputation is forever in tatters—largely because of the choices that she made.
But we’re also cognizant that Channel 7’s “expose” was a marginal story at best, the “news value” largely rooted in Wangler’s status as a local TV news star. Compared to the Kilpatrick controversy, the case of Suzanne Wangler was relatively small potatoes.
And, there are at least a couple of ironies in all of this. First, we’ve always found it a bit odd that (some) media types plead for privacy when one of their own is facing scandal, or is going through a rough patch in life. Are they more entitled to refuge in times of crisis than the other, unfortunate souls that find themselves in the media glare?
A few years ago, we watched a Memphis TV reporter ask relatives of a murdered teenager if they knew the young woman was dead. That particular “journalist” is still employed by the same station that sent him on that ghoulish assignment. Broadcast news types who believe Channel 7 was unfair to Suzanne Wangler might demand the same rights for the target of their next, exclusive “investigation” or ambush interview.
We also find it ironic that the task of reading Ms. Wangler’s obituary on WXYZ fell to none other than Heather Catallo, during her regular shift as an anchor. By all accounts, Catallo handled the assignment without any mawkish emotions, or displays of personal feelings—assuming she had any.
“She did her job,” said one poster on Shoptalk. “I’d hire her.”