Remembering Ginger Casey, a news legend

  • by Hank Plante
  • Wednesday September 27, 2023
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Ginger Casey, right, and Hank Plante enjoyed a lunch together when both worked in San Francisco. Photo: Courtesy Hank Plante
Ginger Casey, right, and Hank Plante enjoyed a lunch together when both worked in San Francisco. Photo: Courtesy Hank Plante

The world lost a bright star, and I lost a lifelong friend, with the recent passing of my former TV news co-anchor Ginger Casey.

Ms. Casey, who was active in the LGBTQ community and the ultimate straight ally, died September 20 at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center after battling lymphoma. She was 68.

Ms. Casey was an Emmy Award-winning journalist who had the most important quality in a reporter and in a human being: she fought daily in life and on-the-air for what she thought was right.

When she anchored "This Week in Northern California" on San Francisco's KQED-TV in the early 1990s she immediately threw herself into helping the LGBTQ community deal with the AIDS epidemic, which was at its peak. Even though I was at a competing station, KPIX-TV, I was thrilled to work with her as we emceed countless AIDS fundraisers and LGBTQ events like our televised broadcast of the 1991 San Francisco Pride parade. Her love for the community went beyond being a straight "ally." She genuinely grieved over so many of her gay friends being struck by the AIDS pandemic. But she turned that grief into action in her volunteer work, including her being a founding board member of the Names Project, creators of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Our friendship went back to the early 1980s when we both worked at KHJ-TV in Los Angeles. No co-anchors ever had more "chemistry," as the TV consultants called it, because we genuinely cared for each other. It also helped that we had the same sarcastic senses of humor.

From there we went as a team to co-anchor the news at KRIV-TV in Houston. Neither one of us had much business being in Texas, which became evident when the station had us anchor the Houston Rodeo Parade on live TV. The Western clothes, hats, and boots that the station supplied only made us look more out of place. And when we started referring to Palominos as "those spotted horses," I knew we were out of our depth. I like to think that we developed a cult following after that because we were so un-Texas.

Fortunately, we both wound up in San Francisco at different TV stations. She then moved on to Providence, Rhode Island's number one newscast at WJAR-TV, where she was named "Best Anchorwoman" by Rhode Island magazine for six years in a row. But the best thing about Providence was that she met her husband there, Don McGrath. They enjoyed a storybook love affair that blossomed over their 30 years together.

Like Ms. Casey, McGrath was a military veteran. He had been a lieutenant colonel at West Point who had become a senior communications executive in the business world. Ms. Casey had been an intelligence specialist in the Air Force and the Air National Guard.

She brought that military discipline and so much more as she set out to cover news stories from the tough neighborhoods of Los Angeles to the Oscars. She interviewed presidents, business leaders, and ordinary people. I watched many of them relax and talk freely with her once her openness and empathy came through to them.

She also cared deeply about her chosen profession of journalism, and how much of it has gone off track over the years. In retirement she wrote and lectured extensively about how to improve the profession and to improve newsroom workplaces, especially for women on the air.

Ms. Casey is survived by her husband and many friends.

My grief over losing Ms. Casey is only tempered by the gratitude that I have for having her as long as we did.

Hank Plante, a gay man, is an Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning TV news reporter and anchor who spent 25 years at KPIX/CBS-TV in San Francisco. He now lives in Palm Springs.

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