WWSB ABC 7’s
By Ed Bertha
Photography by Giovanni Lunardi
“I was falling at 120mph, terminal velocity. But it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like you are going in slow motion. As soon as I got on the ground I really wanted to go do it again. It was quite a rush!”
Most know Lauren Dorsett as the poised, energetic news anchor at WWSB ABC 7. Hard working and dedicated to the profession, behind the camera is a fun loving, giving individual who confesses to being an adrenaline junkie.
“I want to be a reporter, a TV news person.”
Starting at an early age, watching the news with her parents fascinated Lauren. “I always liked seeing strong powerful women on television, and wanted to imitate them. At age seven I told my mom that is what I want to do, and obviously at that age didn’t grasp the responsibility.” Never wavering, throughout high school when asked what she wanted to do, her answer would always be the same, “I want to be a reporter.”
A defining moment came during high school S.A.T. exams. “In a survey, they asked what field you wanted to work in and I put down journalism. I ended up as one of a small group of students selected from across the nation for the Washington Youth Journalism Conference,” Lauren recalls. Off to D.C. she went, attending seminars and interviewing congressmen. “It was exciting. You really got a feel for what the journalism industry is about. So when I came back I said, ‘This is definitely what I want to do.’”
Lauren got real newsroom experience after earning a competitive internship at a station in Los Angeles, KTLA. She sighs, “I was attending Loyola Marymount University taking more than a full load of credit hours and working the morning show at KTLA. I didn’t have a life and was sleeping very little. I would make the hour drive to KTLA, be there by three, three-thirty, in the morning, work until 11 A.M. and then go to school for afternoon and evening classes. Life was crazy.” It’s not uncommon today to see Lauren arrive at WWSB ABC 7 around 2 P.M. and not head home until 2 A.M. Working as a news anchor is a very demanding business and only for extremely dedicated individuals.
You can see Lauren live at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm on WWSB ABC 7.
Washington D.C., 9/11 and the D.C. Sniper
While at Loyola Marymount University, Lauren applied to take classes in Washington, D.C. Moving there she worked at the Tribune Station pumping out live shots to 17 Tribune Stations across the country. “We were covering White House press briefings, Pentagon press briefings, local D.C. news and more. We kind of did the who’s who on capitol hill for the 17 stations,” she adds.
“It was very different when I went to the nation’s capital after 9/11. It was so interesting to see the changes in security.” Having just participated in Sarasota’s ten year 9/11 ceremony she quickly adds, “You just can’t help but be moved by the stories. I just think it was really important to remind people how vulnerable we are, how far we’ve come and what can be done when we are working together. It was an emotional weekend.”
Lauren’s mood takes a somber turn as she rememberes her time working in D.C., “I was there during the D.C. sniper and I’m a runner. I ran all the time. It’s weird that your life changes drastically with something like that. You really get the impact of how important news is to keep people informed of what’s happening in their community. For once, instead of me telling the news, I was living it. I couldn’t leave my apartment and go running because I was afraid of getting shot. That was the feeling in the D.C. area. You just didn’t know. I was covering it so much. I was seeing so many people and the fear in them. I felt it too. Of course you never think it going to happen to you, but I did change my lifestyle.”
She pauses and reflects, “As much as I think journalists want to get the truth out, there’s always that sense of not wanting to interfere with an investigation and you don’t want to ensue panic. So in that kind of situation it was best to listen to the detectives and officers, what they were telling us and decide how you can make it mutually beneficial.”
“You can get the information out to the people and not get in the way of catching whoever is responsible for these horrific acts. At some point while you are giving the news you have to remember you are a member of that community. How do you want to hear it? How does it make you feel as a resident? That’s why we’re there. We’re out there live on the scene describing what we are seeing, what we are feeling, what we are hearing. It’s about being accurate and, most importantly, realizing there is a responsibility.”
All said it was a great period in Lauren’s life. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Television Production emphasizing Journalism and a minor in American history.
Could life get any better than here on the Suncoast?
The fruits of labor yield memorable experiences
From my own experiences of getting behind the scenes, I can relate to Lauren’s account of the unique things she has encountered and done in her career.
Lauren shares “I feel so fortunate to get to do all of the things that this job has allowed me to do and experience things most people don’t get to do. Every place I‘ve moved to, including Sarasota, there were interesting things to venture out to see and do.”
She continues on, “That’s what was so neat about being a girl from the city in California and moving to Montana. I watched a cow have a c-section, I went dog sledding, clay shooting, ice diving. One time they had me in a situation where I pretended to be the person who fell into a frozen lake. I gave viewers tips on how to survive and actually did it on camera. If I can do it, you can do it!”
“I would say I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I love anything with speed. I don’t know where that comes from. I’ve always been somebody that welcomes any situation. I always want to try new things.”
“For the 9/11 ceremony, the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Association asked if I wanted to skydive into the ceremony over downtown Sarasota with jumpers from Skydive Sarasota as they brought in the American flag. Why not? It’s amazing at 10,000 feet up how much you can see. I could see the Ringling Bridge as I was falling.”
“It was just so memorable to be a part of that. And it was the coolest feeling. I was falling at 120 miles per hour, terminal velocity. But it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like you are going in slow motion. As soon as I got on the ground I really wanted to go do it again! It was quite a rush!”
POW! What a unique way to relieve stress.
In my spare time; stress relief
It’s obvious, after talking with Lauren, how much time she devotes to her job. When I asked if she had time for hobbies she made it clear that if you work hard, you have to play hard too. And the Suncoast has given her a lot to work with.
“I’m a certified scuba diver so I obviously love doing that. I was excited coming to a place like Sarasota because I knew I could dive. I couldn’t exactly do much scuba diving in a place like Montana or Washinton D.C. When you are 80 feet down and can barely see the sun coming through, or night diving, it’s another world. You’re just appreciating it.”
Being an avid jogger, she also appreciates Sarasota’s Ringling Bridge. Lauren admits sometimes she’ll run the bridge on her break between the 6 P.M. and 11 P.M. newscasts and loves when she hits the sunset. “It’s really nice, especially when the sun starts setting about the time I go out there. I don’t believe in punishing myself (laughs), so when I feel I went far enough for a good workout and have relieved my stress I’m done. Usually after about two miles I’m good to go.”
Another Suncoast find and stress reliever is Jaco’s Uppercut Boxing Gym. “I started training at Uppercut. Boxing, that’s tons of fun. My trainer, Shanna, is amazing and I love her. It’s like an hour of therapy. I confide in her, she confides in me and it’s this great little relationship. She knows what I’m thinking about when I hit her pad. We have a great time and she taunts me ‘Oh there’s so and so’s face’ and I’ll say ‘Oh good’ (laughs). It’s all in good fun of course.”
Taking a drive down memory lane.
A passion for cars
“I was probably the only kid in my junior high school with a subscription to car magazines. My dad, I’ll tell you I’m like the son he never had, took me to some car shows when I was young. I think it stuck.”
When I learned of Lauren’s love of fast cars, I offered for her to take my Corvette for a spin and learned she had her own connection to Corvettes.
“My father refurbished a ’75 Stingray Corvette as a wedding gift for my stepmother. I loved when he would take me for rides. If a car is fast and has clean lines you’ll see my head turn. The Corvettes are just more of a personal thing because of my dad.”
“On TV I really like to watch the show Top Gear. If I could do the Connecticut race track where they teach you to drive those cars that would be heaven for me!”
WWSB Anchor Scott Dennis comments, “When we’re not making fun of Don (Brennan) wearing shorts on the set, we’re talking cars. Both of us share a passion for everything related to the automobile!”
Mediterraneo, one of Sarasota’s finest culinary delights.
Food, cooking and restaurants
One of the things Sarasota is known for is it’s great restuarants and WWSB helped Lauren find every culinary delight this area has to offer.
“I was so exited when I was able to cook with our culinary director Judi Gallagher. She’s amazing and knows every good restaurant in town. Every person in this building loves Judi, not just because she’s super sweet, but because she makes us the best food! I mean after she shows our viewers how to make the dish, who do you think gets to eat it (laughing)?”
Wishing she had more time for cooking, Lauren talked about food almost as much as she did cars. She shared several of her favorite spots around town: Mediterraneo (for it’s eggplant tower), El Greco (for it’s Spanakopita), Michael’s on East, Lee Roy Selmon’s, Kilwin’s. And that’s just to name a few.
“I’m not a health fanatic. I try to be healthy but I don’t go crazy one way or the other. If I do eat healthy it’s usually because I’m going to have a really good desert. That’s my reasoning for eating healthy…. so I can cheat (laughs).”
Left to Right: Don Brennan, Scott Dennis and Bob Harrigan with Lauren.
Our ABC 7 team
Chemistry is a big part of any team, especially one that works so closely together, day in and out. Lauren has worked for the company that owns WWSB for over five years, though she only joined WWSB ABC 7 in April, 2010.
Lauren readily shares “This team has the most fantastic people I’ve ever worked alongside. I feel so fortunate to join a group comprised of individuals that are extremely down to earth, genuine, and just care. We absolutely have the best time together on camera and off. When we’re sitting there in commercial breaks or in between shows we all get along and have a good time. Then, when it’s time to get to work and get serious, our pace and our cadence, they just mesh well. That’s a rare thing.”
Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan
“Bob loves this community and loves giving back. If you live in this community any amount of time and you haven’t met Bob out at a community event, then you’re not getting out. He really believes in giving his time and he is so generous in that way. He’s extremely knowledgeable of weather events. If I have any weather question I completely trust him. But he’s also really funny. It’s just a pleasure to work with somebody like that.”
Bob returns, “Lauren is a true professional who has the best of both worlds, beauty and smarts. She is gorgeous on the outside, but also beautiful on the inside as well. People in the community always ask me, ‘What is she like in person?’ and I tell them that I’m a lucky man to be working with such a beautiful and talented broadcaster such as her.”
“The ABC 7 team is just that, a cohesive mix of unique personalities that seems to work together on and off camera. Something you need to have to make Television News palatable,” Bob continues.
News Anchor Scott Dennis
When I asked about her co-anchor Lauren shares, “Scott (a big smile) is exactly what you want in somebody who you’re sitting next to on the anchor desk, and have to rely on. We really look out for each other. He has a talent for telling stories and a strong belief in accurate reporting. It’s not always easy being the new kid and he made me feel welcome. He’s just a really nice person. He’s hugely dedicated to his family and this community, which is something I really respect him for.”
Scott replies, “From the beginning, Lauren has set her own course, creating her own legacy here by becoming extremely involved in the community. She freely gives her time and talents to charities and events that mean a great deal to her, like October’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. I admire her greatly, am proud to call her a friend and look forward to the hour and a half that I get to sit next to her on the news set each evening.”
“What makes it so rewarding is the opportunity to work with amazing people,” Scott adds. “It’s such a gift to work with people who you can call your close friends. There is nothing fake about the chemistry viewers see among the four of us on the air and it’s no different when we’re off the set and away from work, playing golf, sharing a meal or attending a community event. We have a strong and close team here at ABC 7!”
Sports Anchor Don Brennan
“Don should have his own comedy show. He’s the funniest guy. If I have a bad day he’s the one I go to. He has an amazing knack for dates. You can pull out a single date and he’ll tell you what sporting event happened then. It’s like he has an almanac in his head!”
With a straight face Don quips, “Lauren has added so much to our team. She is very serious about the newscasts, and yet she has brought a playfulness, and a cheerfulness, that make it a pleasure to work with her. She is serious about her work, but yet she does not take herself too seriously. She fits in quite nicely.”
“It is so much fun working as part of the main news team at ABC 7,” says Don. “It is a very professional team, and yet we can have so much fun in the process. It is a joy to come to work every day.”
Lauren puts on her pink bra in support of the American Cancer Society.
A touching story leads to “Making Strides”
Interviewing renowned figures from Barbara Walters, her news idol, to movie stars and political figures, Lauren’s pick of her most memorable story is quite touching.
“One of the most memorable stories for me was a woman named Sherri. She called the station I worked at in Tallahassee and said ‘My daughter and I really enjoy watching you.’ After talking for a bit, I asked if there was a reason she called. Sherri volunteered that she had stage four breast cancer. She said it was her dream to do the weather on television. It was just one of the things on her bucket list she needed to cross off.”
“I remember hanging up, and I was just moved. I went to my news director and told her the situation. She said ‘Let’s try to give this woman her wish.’ I did a news story on Sherri. I showed up at her house and she was the most vivacious woman. She was so happy, looked fabulous, had this great attitude, and yet… (she pauses) here she was in her thirties with stage four cancer. It was just so sad for me.”
“She later came into the station with her daughter and we let her get on the news for about thirty seconds or so doing a little weather run down with our meteorologist. I had tears in my eyes. She is literally getting her dream right there in front of us. It was so memorable.”
“A while later I was out to dinner with a friend and Sherri’s husband walked into the restaurant. He sees me, came over and says ‘Lauren do remember who I am?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ He told me Sherri passed away. It was very emotional for the both of us at that moment. When I said how sorry I was he interrupted me and said, ‘No you made her dream come true and my daughter and I love to see the segment of her doing the weather.’ That, to me, is what it’s all about. Reaching out to the community and in my own little, tiny way making a real connection. I can’t put that moment into words, but it’s one of the most memorable I’ve had.”
“Sherri touched my heart immensely. On top of that, my grandmother had breast cancer; she didn’t pass away from it. You see breast cancer, if it is caught early enough, can be stopped, but some people don’t get to have their mammograms. I also believe a cure is attainable. When the American Cancer Society approached me and asked me to chair Making Strides Against Breast Cancer it was such a no brainer. I felt honored, quite frankly.”
“It just takes a little bit of effort to get out there and you can wear your pink bra this year to show that you’re supportive of beating cancer. That you are supporting women who can’t get a mammogram. I mean one in eight women will have breast cancer, that’s huge. If I can be a part of that and can use my influence in the community, as far as being somebody you can see every night on TV, how great is that? Over 10,000 walkers, raising over $400,000. I just think that’s amazing. I want to raise more this year. We can do more. I don’t care what your cause is, you can get out there and make a difference somehow.”
Join Lauren and put on your pink bra!
The Control Room, the Directors’ realm and where the show comes together.
WWSB ABC 7
1477 10th Street
Sarasota, FL 34236
Clothing and Accessories courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue
Cover – Jacket and Blouse Armani, Bangle D Yurman, Necklace & Earrings John Hardy
Mediterraneo – Dress Kay Unger, Ring & Earrings Kenneth Jay Lane
Thanks Sally, Beth and all!!!
Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged
Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi Photography