Trailblazing Michigan Broadcaster + TV 5 Alum Roberta Wray Dead at 83
A woman who forged a path for female broadcasters in our state has passed away. Roberta Wray was a longtime reporter for WNEM TV-5 and served as a magistrate judge in Genesee County.
Michigan's First Female TV Reporter
Roberta 'Bobbi' JF Wray called Flint her home for most of her life. She was bitten by the theater bug as a teenager and joined the drama and Shakespeare clubs while attending Flint Central High School.
A field trip to then-popular radio station WTAC-AM piqued her interest in broadcasting. Her first full-time job was working at a record store owned by disc jockey Bill Lamb. It was there where she met Jim Rush and Doug Smith who at the time were working as news stringers for TV stations in Michigan. In 1961, Wray was hired by WKMF radio to work in the office scheduling commercials. (WKMF became WFNT in 1993 and is now owned by Townsquare Media.)
Wray told the East Village Magazine in 2017 that her duties at the radio station expanded and she began gathering news, sports, and weather reports for the announcers to use on the air.
"I didn’t start writing the copy right away, but I attended city council meetings regularly and went to accident scenes and gathered information for Jim Rush and Doug Smith,” she said.
Then in 1968, Wray was hired by WNEM-TV 5 in Saginaw as a reporter and photographer. She was the first female reporter covering a regular news beat in Michigan.
Wray spent more than two decades at WNEM, covering a wide array of news stories. During her career, she interviewed astronaut James Irwin, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, and Carl Sagan, and covered the impact the Detroit riots had on the Flint area.
In 2008, Wray told Mlive that she never got bored and loved the writing and creativity being a journalist had to offer. She added that covering news in the 1960s and '70s was especially rewarding.
Stepping Away From TV News
After more than 25 years in the news business, Wray saw that the industry was changing. She noted that television news was beginning to focus more on ratings and entertainment, so she opted for a career change.
"I became frustrated with the course journalism was taking. If this was what the news business was becoming, I did not want to be a part of it."
In 1994, she graduated from Cooley Law School. After working as a lawyer for several years, she was appointed magistrate in the Mt. Morris division of 67th District Court. Wray served in that capacity for 11 years before retiring in 2008.
Funeral Arrangements and Obituary
A memorial service for Roberta Wray will be held on September 9. Arrangements are being handled by Sharp Funeral Home in Grand Blanc. Her full obituary can be viewed here.