Gone are the 8 million viewers and a staff of nearly 200. The audience is a fraction as large and the staff, not a drop in the bucket. Instead of New York and Los Angeles, where she once worked, she’s based in Charlotte, where she was born. Maureen O’Boyle, late of tabloid-television shows Extra and A Current Affair, has come home. With no regrets. “When you are sitting down and communicating information on television, you’re thinking about talking with one person,” says O’Boyle, 41, now an anchorwoman at WBTV. “So there’s actually no difference.” Except the pay, which she won’t discuss.
One of nine children, she graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1981, then attended East Carolina University. A director at the nearby Washington TV station heard her on the campus radio station and offered her a job. She was 18 and, she says, lousy. “I had to go to work at 3 a.m., and I lived in a loud dorm. Some of the girls were just going to bed. It was scary, driving 15 miles along country roads in the middle of the night.” She lost that job in the spring of 1982.
In 1986, she went to work in Spokane, Wash. She was 22. Two years later, she was in New York on A Current Affair. When Maury Povich left to start his talk show in 1991, she stepped in as anchor. In 1995, she became anchor and host of Los Angeles-based Extra.
But behind the cameras of tabloid television, whose often lurid fare included recreations of real-life events, she was increasingly unhappy. “There were things I really didn’t like. I loathed them might be a better word.” She struggled with bureaucracy. “To get one answer, you had to go through six people.” On a 30-minute show, she’d introduce five to seven three-minute reports. “I was on only for little snippets, but everything was more under the microscope.”
She quit in 2000 to raise her daughter, Keegan, in upstate New York, where she owned a cabin. Last October, they moved to Charlotte. Now, days begin at 6. By 9, she has read the morning newspaper and gone online to review potential stories. At the station, a producer writes a skeleton script for her noon slot. At 11:30, she does a live promo for the news. Minutes tick down. She settles into the anchor desk. “I’m Maureen O’Boyle ... ”
By midafternoon, she is going over scripts for the 5 and 6 p.m. news. “Producers walk us through what all the reporters are doing.” Rarely does she do any reporting. “I’m getting ready for the 5 o’clock news, and on average, in the ‘A’ block alone — there’re a total of ‘A’ through ‘H’ blocks in just the 5-to-6 news — we’ll have upwards of 12 stories.”
There’s pressure. WBTV once ruled the market. Now it runs second to rival WSOC. she co-anchors noon, 5 and 6 p.m. shows. “It may seem mundane on a given day with no breaking news. But most days there is.” The challenge is getting it all on the air.
Homecomings are often bittersweet, and hers was no exception. Still in college, O’Boyle was encouraged by a family friend to pursue her TV career. Loonis McGlohon, WBTV music director, suggested she come back to Charlotte when she had more experience. By 2004, she had it. He died in 2002.