I've always liked Channel 9's Carol Williams, but never more than right now.
When she arrived in Cincinnati in 1986 as Pat Minarcin's co-anchor at WCPO-TV (Channel 9), we were still getting used to the idea of women behind the anchor desk. She says she was hired as his equal, "but Pat was more equal than I was." And laughs.
She laughs. She doesn't giggle. I like that in a grown-up woman. That's what I've always liked about Carol. For the past 11 years, she has never acted like a sidekick or a happytalkmeister. Or, in fact, anything but a professional journalist.
Since Pat Minarcin left, she has co-anchored with Randy Little and Clyde Gray. She was identified as the most-trusted person in local broadcasting in a 1995 Cincinnati Magazine poll conducted by Brouillette Research Inc. As far as I can tell, no one is more equal than she is now.
She has the job most TV reporters covet, the 11 o'clock news. And she is turning her back on it.
The reason is as old as time and as new as the Glass Ceiling and the Mommy Track. Carol's daughter, Katherine, will be 6 in August, starting kindergarten in the fall. "She's in her 'mommy phase' and wants to spend time with me right now," Carol says. "I know it won't last forever."
Carol grew up in a household where her dad worked and her mom stayed at home. "But Dad was always a constant presence, there if you needed him. I guess like a lot of women my age, I want to be a combination of my mom and my dad."
Back when she was in college at Duke University, she told a man she wanted to be a TV reporter, and he acted "as if I wanted to go into the circus or something." After graduating from Duke with a degree in English literature, she did graduate work in broadcast journalism at Boston University.
Her first job was as a morning reporter for a Lancaster, Pa., station. Her day started at 4:30 a.m., then she worked her way to the weekend anchor spot. Better hours. More prestige. Eventually, she was evening co-anchor there until coming to Cincinnati. "My goal was to have a job like the one I have now."
Lots of people would like to have the job she has now. As I wait for her in WCPO's lobby, a couple of employees gossip about the impending change. "I think she's doing the right thing," a woman says. "Me, too," says a man, "but I wonder how they'll replace her."
News director Stuart Zanger says it won't be easy, "but she has given us a little time to think about it." The plan is for Carol to leave the 11 p.m. news before Katherine starts kindergarten. She'll stay at the anchor desk with Clyde at 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. with Randy. Then home for dinner and bedtime snacks and, well, motherhood.
"I want to be there for homework and to put her to bed at night and have breakfast with her in the morning," she says. "It sounds silly, having breakfast, but if you can't do it, it's not so silly."
Her marriage to Katherine's father ended about two years ago, and "I think I'd have wanted this anyway, but being single just makes it that much more important and necessary."
While we talk, she is applying makeup, getting ready to tape a promo. She came to work that day with her face scrubbed and her hair unstyled. Most women would rather win a date with Mike Tyson than go anywhere with a shiny face.
Carol Williams is remarkably unself-conscious and natural. And forthright. "I don't want anybody to think I was edged out," she says. "It's such a good job that some people may have a hard time believing that I'd voluntarily leave it."
Then I remember one Halloween when I saw Carol with her daughter. Katherine was a bunny, I think. Or maybe she was just hopping around so much I thought she was a bunny. Anyway, when I picture that little face and Carol's face when she looked at Katherine, I believe it.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.