Tampa Bay residents can depend on two constants at 5 p.m. on weekdays.
First, that frustrating gridlock will stand in the way between you and your destination. Second, longtime ABC Action News anchor Brendan McLaughlin will deliver the day’s top stories to you with poise, sincerity, and a warm smile.
The two-time Emmy winner moved from California to the Sunshine State in 1994 with his wife Sandy, first settling in Westchase before settling in Tampa Heights four years ago, and is now celebrating his 17th year with the network.
Patch met with the 53-year-old at Nicko’s Fine Foods. Both the waitress and the father and son duo at the adjacent table recognized him the minute he stood up to leave. Despite the instant recognition—which he receives in daily doses no matter where he goes—McLaughlin remains “down to earth,” a term he uses to describe his fellow Bay area neighbors.
Patch spoke to the father of two and California State University at Chico business management graduate about life in front of the camera and in Tampa.
Patch: Speaking of San Francisco, you dubbed yourself “the oldest intern” (at 29 years old) at the CBS affiliate in San Fran. What career path were you pursuing before you made the transition to journalism?
McLaughlin: It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. Although I had had several jobs, I wasn’t really pursuing a career. I had minored in journalism and remained interested in the field. It was appropriately suited to my temperament and my abilities since I’m a curious person by nature and I love to tell a good story. I began reporting right out of the gates and was promoted to weekend anchor after my first year.
Patch: Walk us through your typical day…
McLaughlin: My schedule changed last year. I now anchor the two afternoon broadcasts along with reporting and special projects throughout the day. (McLaughlin used to also anchor the 11pm broadcast.) It’s been a nice change and allows me a more “normal” schedule. We plot out the course of the day’s news at our 9:30am meeting where I pitch my best story ideas, and usually embark on a project that may air that same day or the next.
Patch: Do you feel like you have a “dream job”?
McLaughlin: It’s the best job for me. The variety of work I do, the ability to interact with so many interesting people, and the ability to bring creativity to my work every day makes it more fun than anything I can think of. My fantasy retirement would be to be a travel writer.
Patch: What genre do you enjoy reporting on?
Patch: Excited for the 2012 Republican National Convention next August?
McLaughlin: It’s going to be an enormous event on several levels. It will put Tampa on the map from an international standpoint, and the city will generate a significant economic boost. Overall, the convention itself is hugely important in terms of choosing our next President.
Patch: You have great chemistry with Wendy Ryan and Linda Hurtado.
McLaughlin: You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your co-anchors! Wendy is so easy to get along with. She is super professional and just a lovely person. And the same goes for Linda. I am very lucky to be paired up with these extraordinary ladies.
Patch: What journalist(s) do you admire?
McLaughlin: ABC’s George Stephanopoulous, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I also enjoy watching Fareed Zakaria (also on CNN) for his reporting on international affairs. Terry Gross from Fresh Air is my favorite radio reporter/host.
Patch: The show “Entourage” is popular show for men of all ages. Who would you select for your “entourage”?
McLaughlin: I’d need someone funny, so I’d pick Cowhead (WHPT 102.5 FM radio DJ, Mike “Cowhead” Calta), someone smart which would be Thomas Friedman (New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author), and Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones) could get us in anywhere. I actually feel as if I have my own built-in Entourage, as I have three brothers (and two sisters)!
Patch: What’s on your iPod … Kindle… DVR?
McLaughlin: I listen to a lot alternative music – folk, rock, or country. I also listen to a lot of podcasts such as “This American Life” and “The Moth.” I’m currently reading “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. As far as TV shows, I enjoy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Game of Thrones,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Mad Men.”
Patch: What do you love most about the Bay area community?
McLaughlin: Tampa is unpretentious and has so much potential. I’ve been here long enough to see it improve each year – there are more parks, additional cultural amenities, better restaurants, etc.
I also emcee a handful of events and fundraisers each year, which I’m happy to do. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is one of our favorite nonprofits to support. I admire their unique mission in helping women and families in need.
Patch: Favorite area landmarks and eateries?
McLaughlin: I love Curtis Hixon Park, Pass-a-Grille Beach, and Redington Long Pier. I go up to Flatwoods Park to ride my bike, or take a jog down Bayshore Boulevard. We love to explore the local dining scene. Fly Bar and Restaurant is our neighborhood spot. We also really enjoy Bamboozle Café, Pizzaiolo Bavaro and Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe.
Patch: What mottos do you live by?
McLaughlin: “Live every day as if it’s your last”; and “One day, you’ll be right!”