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WLBT’s Bert Case attributes success to fairness, honesty

Bert Case is the undisputed dean of Mississippi’s television news anchors. A hall of fame broadcaster who has been in front of the camera now for nearly 40 years, his face and distinctive delivery of “Beeeerrrrrt Case” have become familiar staple in thousands of dens and living rooms across Mississippi. And, Case has no thought of signing off for good any time soon.

“I still love what I do,” Case said. “The other day, there was a truck fire on I-55 near Canton. They threw me on the air, and I broadcast from the helicopter for 42 minutes without any new information coming in. I guess I can still do it, and I have no intention of retiring. I’m going to keep doing this for as long as possible.”

From radio to TV

Case is a Jackson native, and graduated from the city’s Murrah High School. While still in high school, a neighbor recommended radio broadcasting as a career. So, when Case entered the University of Mississippi in 1957, he joined the campus radio’s staff.

From 1957-1965, he also worked in Oxford, Memphis and Washington, D.C. From 1962-1965, he was also a U.S. Air Force information officer at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington.

Case became interested in television when a radio broadcaster/friend took a job with the emerging medium. “I saw how much more money he was making in television, and I realized that TV is where I needed to go,” Case said with a smile.

In 1965, Case returned to the Capital City and launched his TV career. From 1965-1970, he was news director and anchor at WJTV. From 1970-1974, Case was news director and anchor at WAPT.

In 1974, Case joined WLBT, where he remains today. From 1981-1984, he was a WLBT reporter and anchor before serving again as news director from 1984-1986. Since 1986, Case has continued as an anchor and reporter at WLBT, where he anchors the noon and 5 p.m. reports.

Just the facts

Over his long career, Case has covered every major news story in Mississippi as either a reporter, anchor or news director. When asked what work he has done that he finds particularly rewarding, Case said he thought he would always be remembered for his coverage of Hurricane Camille in 1969. But, he said the story that most people seem to remember was his coverage of late Gov. Kirk Fordice’s extramarital affair, a story that drew a memorable on-air threat from Fordice of bodily harm to Case.

“Just the other day, a guy called about what he believed was a suspicious Chinese ship in the harbor at Pascagoula. He said he called me because if I could uncover the Fordice affair, I could find out about this ship,” Case said with a laugh.

On air, Case is the ultimate “serious journalist.” Off camera, Case is personable, enjoys a joke, even when he is the subject of the laughter. Still, he never allows himself to get too far away from the news — he has radio scanners attached to his bicycle so he can keep up with any breaking action while he is out.

“Total objectivity is unattainable, but total fairness is possible,” Case said when asked his definition of “serious journalism.” “My definition of good journalism is covering change from an outside position and doing it honestly and fairly. Be honest with yourself, and cover all sides.”

Awards and rewards

Case’s dedication to “getting the story” has certainly not gone unnoticed by his peers. He won the Silver Em Award for 2001-2002, the highest honor bestowed by the University of Mississippi’s Department of Journalism. In 2004, Gov. Haley Barbour awarded him the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the highest award given to a civilian by the State of Mississippi. Also in 2004, Case was inducted into the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame, and the association also named him Newsperson of the Year in 2006.

Obviously proud of the accolades, Case is even prouder of his track record and the restraint he used in pursuing the news.

“I want people to remember that I was fair and honest in my work,” he said when asked what he hoped people would say when he eventually leaves the bright lights and cameras. “I hope they say that I always was looking for something different and interesting to report. I always tried to place myself in the position of the people I am doing a story about — you know, treat them like I would want to be treated if I was in their shoes. I really just want people to think that I was fair.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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