Longtime ABC7 News reporter and weekend anchor Carolyn Tyler signed off one last time Tuesday evening, capping off a distinguished three-decade career chronicling life and politics in a rapidly changing Bay Area.
“I’m feeling pretty good. A little bittersweet, but pretty good," Tyler said Tuesday, as she prepared for her final broadcast. “I've spent the bulk of my career and nearly half of my life here. I thought it was time to retire."
Tyler moved to San Francisco from Austin, Texas, in 1986 to take a job as a general assignment television reporter at ABC7. It was a newsroom she'd end up calling home for the next 32 years, covering some of the most defining local issues and developments of the day. She earned a reputation as an ardent Warriors fan and one of the most hard-working, fair-minded local journalists in the field.
Three years into her job, Tyler felt the earth shake violently beneath her feet, in what would become one of the most formative moments of her fledgling journalism career. In the aftermath of the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, she worked tirelessly to capture the full extent and impact of the disaster, an effort that helped win her team a Peabody Award for its exhaustive coverage.
"I hadn't been here that long," Tyler said. "It was an all-hands-on-deck situation."
She recalls how surreal it all felt, having never experienced a real earthquake before.
"Just the scope of it and the need of people," she said. "How they really turned to TV for their information. We really were an important resource for them.”
Tyler grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with little intention of becoming a journalist.
"I thought I’d be a teacher or nurse, because those were the only things that I really knew or thought were probably open to me,” she said in a recent television interview. "And then I saw my first black female newscaster on television. And I said ‘Wow, I think this is something that I could do.’ ”
Much of Tyler's career has been steeped in covering San Francisco politics and keeping tabs on a city known for its trailblazing actions and dramatic booms and busts.
“I don't want to say, 'I remember the good old days,' but I kind of do,” she said of the city, recalling the smaller-town feel it had when she first arrived, a time when rents and traffic congestion paled in comparison to today.
In particular, she laments the city's dwindling African-American population, which has decreased by more than half since she arrived. The change, largely brought on by the high cost of living, is particularly notable in once-robust black neighborhoods like the Fillmore and Western Addition.
“It's one thing I'm very sad about," Tyler said, noting a drop in diversity in the newsroom as well. "We just don’t have that many people here anymore," she said.
Throughout her career, Tyler has gravitated toward stories about social justice, including an Emmy-nominated series she produced that followed a group of Bay Area high school students on a road trip through the Deep South, visiting major landmarks and meeting key surviving leaders of the civil rights movement.
She also covered nearly every step in the long fight for marriage equality, from the moment in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses to the jubilation in the streets in 2015 following the landmark Supreme Court decision establishing marriage equality nationwide.
“I followed that story just about every step of the way,” she said. "I believe it's just another part of the civil rights movement.”
In her final on-air appearance, Tyler was asked what about her career she's most thankful for.
“I think just the longevity itself," she replied. "Not many people get to have a career like I’ve had and to be at one station for as long as I’ve had. I hear from time to time, quite a bit of the time, people say: ‘I don’t care what room I am in the house, when I hear your voice on TV I know it’s you.' "