Headline Surfer video / Multimedia feature on Hal Boedeker, the Orlando Sentinel's TV Guy, who announced his retirement on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after 25 years with Central Florida's daily metro newspaper.
By HENRY FREDERICK / Headline Surfer
ORLANDO, Fla. -- After 25 years of giving Orlando Sentinel readers snapshot profiles on local and national personalities in his column, The TV Guy, Hal Boedecker has retired.
"I have reached one of the most bittersweet days in my life: I have accepted a voluntary buyout after 25 years at the Orlando Sentinel," newspaper columnist Hal Boedecker announced in his column on Friday. " This week, the TV Guy is signing off on this network, which has been so good to me."
For his consistently outstanding journalism in an ever-changing multimedia world, Hal Boedecker is the newest inductee into the Headline Surfer Hall of Fame.
Boedeker was stoic, but upbeat in writing to his readers, describing his quarter-century run as a "wonderfully challenging ride, one that taught me beautiful lessons for living."
First, he said, was the "importance of learning to adapt."
"I've worked 42 years in newspapers, from Missouri to Florida, from editing to writing," Boedecker wrote. "In the beginning of my Sentinel career, I wrote mainly about television. I had been the TV critic at The Miami Herald for five years, and my early focus here, as a columnist, was reviews and commentary. As the newspaper industry changed, additional assignments came my way, including movies, film production, books and stand-up comedians."
Boedeker continued. "As technology changed, I threw myself into the TV Guy blog. Readers filled my inbox with fierce responses to topics from Casey Anthony to 'Dancing With the Stars.' The technology brought me closer to readers, who readily shared insights, tips, jokes and editing suggestions. Instead of one editor, I had many. Thank you."
"The blog" Boedeker said, "has run the gamut, from profiles and politics to reviews and ratings. Most crucial were the people I interviewed who opened up in revealing ways. This series finale salutes a few."
Cancer-stricken death of WESH-Channel 2 anchor Wendy Chioji chronicled
Among the most poignant of Boedeker's column profiles were those of Wendy Chioji.
"The WESH-Channel 2 anchor invited me to her home in 2001 to explain how she would announce, during a newscast, that she had breast cancer," Boedeker said. "She handled that challenge with grace and remained beloved after leaving Central Florida in 2008. Five years later, she revealed she was battling cancer again. I shared health updates from her Live Fearlessly blog via my blog. As 2014 ended, she told me my coverage had helped her get into the clinical trial she had sought — a treasured memory."
Boedeker said of his ongoing features on Chioji, "She told me that she shared her story to control the information. 'I’ve long maintained that knowledge is the cure for fear, and I saw that play out repeatedly,' she said. When Chioji died in October, I wrote that she was the best story she told."
Boedeker's exit from the media spotlight leaves a loss for Central Florida
"Orlando is losing a great journalist as TV reporter Hal Boedeker leaves the Orlando Sentinel," said Carol Wonsavage, a course director for entertainment business & marketing at Full Sail University in Winter Park. "He hung in there through ownership changes and downsizing. His work will be so missed by the media community.
Fred Rogers, the Rollins College grad who became the star of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” taught an unforgettable lesson in 1997. He was accepting a career achievement from the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif.
“You can have love and success, but the love has to remain first, always first,” Rogers told the audience. “Love and success, always in that order. It’s that simple and that difficult.”
Through the years, I’ve written about local people who gained national fame, including Wayne Brady, Carrot Top, Brian McKnight and Daniel Tosh.
In 2002, Darrell Hammond, the Melbourne-born star of “Saturday Night Live,” told me about his addiction battles. “I even got to the point ‘Life sucks, there is no God.’ I was talking that talk and eventually walking that walk until it was time to die,” he told me. “You get this terrible realization: ‘I’ve been a fool my whole life and now it’s too late.’ I was wrong. I was wrong. I was always wrong. Then I got a second chance.”
In recent years, writers explained how Central Florida formed them. “I would be a different writer or not a writer at all if I hadn’t grown up in Orlando,” John Green, the author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” told me in 2014. His rocky youth here in the 1980s and early 1990s helped shape his vision, he said. “I was for much of my adolescence resentful of Orlando. I think everybody hates where they grow up. At the time, I wished I lived in a different place, but it was good to grow up in Orlando.”
Author Kate DiCamillo, who grew up in Clermont, talked about her novel “Beverly, Right Here” last year. “I carry Florida with me,” she told me. “I think so much of what the book is about is Beverly learning to let herself be loved. She’s real capable of loving. It’s a different thing entirely to let herself be loved. That’s biographical for me.”
When people open up to you, that’s the greatest feeling. You can write long, you can write short. You can write online, you can write for print. The revealing quote works in any format.