Loss of a Leader: WHDH owner Ed Ansin passes away at 84

BOSTON (WHDH) - Ed Ansin, the owner of WHDH and WLVI, passed away Sunday at the age of 84. He owned WHDH for more than 25 years and revolutionized local news in Boston and across the country.

As a broadcast pioneer, Ansin changed the television industry, and it all started back in 1962 when his father, Sydney, bought the South Florida station then known as WCKT-TV. At that time it was an NBC affiliate, until nearly 30 years later, when NBC would pull the peacock from Channel 7.

“In those days as an affiliate in Miami, we were just an appendage of the network … we stood out because of what we did locally,” Ansin recalled.

Ansin knew to succeed, his television station had to stand out. And to accomplish that, he had to break the mold.

“Everybody predicted this was not going to work out,” Ansin said. “[But] I got the bright idea of 6 to 9 in the morning.”

But it did work. WSVN-TV joined the Fox network and with a new vision, 7 News blazed a new path.

“We had to be creative and innovative to survive,” Ansin said. “We can’t afford to be boring, we have to keep doing new things.”

And to both supporters and critics alike, one thing was undeniable, 7 News was anything but boring.

WSVN-TV was highly successful. The fast-paced, visually compelling and innovative newscasts were emulated across the country.

Ansin also wanted to bring that energy to his hometown of Boston. Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation would now reach beyond the Sunshine State and into the Northeast when he purchased WHDH-TV in 1993.

WHDH was a CBS affiliate at the time, but just a few years later, he once again became a partner with the peacock as an NBC affiliate.

It was a great partnership for more than 20 years and led to great ratings success, but the relationship would end.

WHDH lost its NBC affiliation in January of 2017. But Ansin had been through this before, and knew necessity is the mother of invention.

WHDH became an independent station. Ansin liked being beholden to no one and came up with a game plan, pouring even more resources into the news operation, and airing the game show Family Feud in prime time. And those bold decisions paid off.

For Ansin, it was not just about delivering the news, but working to build a better community. Over the decades, Ansin gave generously to United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Feeding South Florida, Boys and Girls Club, and Best Buddies.

“In terms of philanthropy, I feel that I’m in position to be philanthropic and I should, and I enjoy being philanthropic,” Ansin said. “For an audience to relate to you, you have to relate to the audience.”

Far from a hands-off owner, Ed Ansin walked through the doors of WSVN-TV every day. He once said he didn’t look forward to that many holidays because it meant there weren’t many people for him to talk to at work.

He was a true leader, not just by title, but by example.  Ansin told the Boston Globe “I want to die with my boots on” and that’s what he did. Ansin was in the office just this past Friday still doing what he loved. When asked previously how he wanted viewers to think of his stations, Ansin was humble but clear.

“I want them to know that every day we do the best we can and we try to engage our audience in the best newscast and everything else we can, and it works for us,” Ansin said.

In a statement, Gov. Charlie Baker said “Ed Ansin will be sorely missed in Massachusetts as his contribution to broadcast journalism raised the bar for the industry and invested in its long term success. Local journalism is a part of people’s lives and Ed’s work enriched our commonwealth as well as civic life. The men and women, young and old who he supported through various local philanthropies and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were fortunate to have Ed Ansin as a friend.”

Mayor Marty Walsh also released a statement that read, ““Sad to hear of the passing of Ed Ansin who was a trailblazer in the Boston media market, leading 7News with a steady hand for decades and leaving a lasting mark on the entire television industry. He will be missed.”

We will continue to work to make Mr. Ansin proud and continue his vision into the future. As for his TV stations, there will be a seamless transition to the leadership of Ansin’s sons, Andy and James.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)