Fifth Estater

Hard-Charging, Yet Charming, in Charleston

Savvy general manager Rita Scott keeps WCSC (way) on top in idyllic seaside market 7/29/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Rita Scott

Title:

Vice president/ general manager, WCSC

Education:

High Point College, 1970-72; Appalachian State University, 1976-78

Employment Highlights:

Account executive, WGHP High Point, 1979-83

Account executive, WJW Cleveland, 1984-86

National sales manager, Capital Cities, 1986-87

Local sales manager, WGHP, 1987-88

Account executive, then local/ regional sales manager, WBTV Charlotte, 1989

National sales manager, WBTV High Point (N.C.) 1991-94

National sales manager, WCSC Charleston, 1994- 98; general sales manager, 1998-99

Current title since 1999

Personal:

Born Feb. 22, 1951; sons Darren and Travis; stepchildren Natasha and Nick; grandchildren Rita, 13, and Darren Jr., 8

mmalone@nbmedia.com | @BCMikeMalone

This was never how Rita Scott had envisioned taking over a TV station.
It was 1999. She had been in the top job at WCSC Charleston for all of a week when Hurricane Floyd was bearing down
on the region and residents were being evacuated.
Scott sat in the newsroom with her department
heads, going over coverage plans and
how best to keep residents—and staffers—safe.

It was then that she realized the full depths
of her new role. “I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’m the
captain of the ship, so we’ve got to make it
happen,’” she recalls.

Scott told staffers that family members who
did not evacuate—many were stuck on highways
headed out of town—were welcome at the
station. So were their pets: There were cats and
dogs in the building, a few birds, a ferret, even a
pig or two. “The only thing we said you couldn’t
bring in were horses,” she says with a laugh.

The truest test of a general manager isn’t
always ratings or revenue, but how the station
performs when severe weather threatens the
community. WCSC was wall-to-wall in storm
coverage for three straight days, advising viewers
on how to stay safe throughout the category 2
hurricane. “They did a first-rate job on it,” says
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. “They reported
with energy and kept the community informed.
Rita’s station is highly respected and trusted.”

These days, the challenge is keeping Raycomowned
WCSC, which turns 60 this year, on top
in DMA No. 98. It’s a challenge Scott embraces.
Charleston residents have huge expectations of
WCSC, and Scott uses that to keep the staff motivated
every day. “For a legacy station in a destination
market, there can be a lot of, ‘It’s been
working, let’s not change it,’” says Don Richards,
group VP of WCSC owner Raycom. “Rita always
challenges her managers to keep it fresh.”

Thespian Dreams

Scott was raised in High Point, N.C., in her
family’s funeral home. Her father was the mortician;
her mother, the secretary and organist.
Rita handled the corpses and arranged the flowers,
went to the funerals, and consoled the bereaved.
“You learned to respect life,” she says.
“You understood that you rejoiced every day.”

With an easy laugh and rich southern accent,
Scott had dreams of being an actress. She majored
in theater before realizing a young mother
would have an easier time in an office than on
stage. She got her start in television at WGHP
High Point in 1979, but not in any traditional
manner. Women, and African-American women
in particular, had little shot of breaking into
station sales. Scott says she was part of a classaction
suit against WGHP’s parent company at
the time, demanding equality. “I didn’t ask for
money—I asked for an opportunity,” she says.

Her first manager, David Whitaker, says Scott
turned out to be an “incredible” hire, despite
her lack of experience. Scott was routinely the
first to arrive at work and took to sales immediately.
“She had natural ability,” says Whitaker,
who retired as general manager at KOAA
Colorado Springs. “She could sell anything.”

Scott is the rare exec with “full-time coach’s
wife” on her resume. Then-husband Gene
Littles, a former American Basketball Association
player, took on coaching jobs with the
Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets, among
others, and Scott usually found TV jobs in her
new city. When Littles was tapped for a Cleveland
Cavaliers post, Scott went in to break it
to Whitaker that she was heading to Ohio. A
smile broke across her manager’s face when
she told him the news—he had just been offered
a promotion at WJW Cleveland, and he
knew who his first hire would be.

Charmed by Charleston

Scott came on board at WCSC in 1994 as
national sales manager, was promoted to general
sales manager in 1998 and the top spot a
year later. As is just about anyone who visits,
Scott was captivated by Charleston’s abundant
charms: its people, beaches, history, restaurants.
Charleston is equally enamored of Scott: Mayor
Riley staged a “Rita Scott Day” in 1999, saluting
her for being, as his research revealed at the
time, the only African-American female GM in
local television. “She’s so well-loved, she could
have more than one day,” says Riley.

WCSC has not lost a news ratings race since
Scott arrived almost two decades ago, and its
“Live 5” branding is ubiquitous around town.
Don Richards singles out WCSC for its “soaring”
digital strategy that is a model within Raycom.
Besides page views and mobile, that includes a
pair of multicasts to further WCSC’s reach in
Charleston: Live 5 Plus and Bounce Charleston.
Scott is contemplating a newscast for the latter.

Richards calls his GM in Charleston “a
remarkable reflection” of the quaint seaside
city. “Charming, competitive, resilient, ambitious
and gracious,” he says. “All that, with
her own unique style.”

Rita Scott

Title:

Vice president/ general manager, WCSC

Education:

High Point College, 1970-72; Appalachian State University, 1976-78

Employment Highlights:

Account executive, WGHP High Point, 1979-83

Account executive, WJW Cleveland, 1984-86

National sales manager, Capital Cities, 1986-87

Local sales manager, WGHP, 1987-88

Account executive, then local/ regional sales manager, WBTV Charlotte, 1989

National sales manager, WBTV High Point (N.C.) 1991-94

National sales manager, WCSC Charleston, 1994- 98; general sales manager, 1998-99

Current title since 1999

Personal:

Born Feb. 22, 1951; sons Darren and Travis; stepchildren Natasha and Nick; grandchildren Rita, 13, and Darren Jr., 8

September
October