Garland and Angela, the ‘marriage made in Nielsen heaven’
Love wasn’t just in the air in 1978 New Orleans. It was on the air. Since 1975, WWL-TV news anchors Garland Robinette and Angela Hill — he a blue-collar Cajun kid from Boutte, she a blonde reporter from Maine (via Texas) — delivered the news together. Then, in 1978, they made news, announcing that they were getting married. The couple’s courtship had been kept quiet for the most part, but the news of their impending nuptials immediately became a subject of citywide fascination, providing a touch of soap-opera romance to the daily news — and helping solidify what would become WWL’s decades-long ratings dominance in New Orleans.
Robinette and Hill’s romance lasted just short of a decade, as they announced in March 1987 — almost nine years to the day of their 1978 wedding — that they were splitting up. That was just off-screen, though. They remained on the air together until 1990, when Robinette left the anchor desk for a job as the spokesman for Freeport-McMoRan. He now hosts a daily public affairs radio show on WWL-870 AM. Hill continued on at WWL TV until her retirement in 2013.
- It wasn’t unusual for nearly half of the viewing audience of New Orleans to tune in to Robinette and Hill’s 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts, according to 1980 story in The Times-Picayune, which once referred to the nuptials as a “marriage made in Nielsen heaven.”
- As a peek into their professional priorities, Hill and Robinette worked right up until the wedding date. “We’re in ratings then,” Hill said at the time. When they split, they blamed their work schedules. “It’s a question of so many deadlines, so many road trips, so little time for us,” Robinette said.
- Somewhat appropriately, given the impact the wedding had on viewership, it wasn’t Hill’s father who gave the bride away but longtime WWL News director Phil Johnson.
- The March 11 wedding, described by The Times-Picayune as a media spectacle, took place at Christ Church Cathedral and was followed by a reception at the home of local newswoman Mary Schoenberger. The couple honeymooned in Hawaii and then returned to the air March 27.
- While Hill in a 1980 interview with The Times-Picayune called the city’s reaction to the marriage “beautiful,” Robinette admitted that the whole fuss was, at least at times, a source of irritation. “Whether we’re bad or good news people should be the question,” he said, “not whether I have too much hair or she’s too pretty. That’s cutting us down a very shallow basis. It’s like studying weeks for a bar exam and the professor says he doesn’t like your penmanship.”
While it’s probably an exaggeration to call the whole thing a fairy-tale romance, it was as close as is probably possible where local TV news is concerned. That helped make Robinette and Hill the most-watched new duo on the city’s most-watched news channel during the heyday of local TV news — and a pairing many in New Orleans still remember fondly. “I still get, ‘I wish you and Garland would get back on the air together,'” Hill said in a 2013 interview with The Times-Picayune. “It’s been 25 years! It’s over! And God bless these people. I think it brought familiarity, that’s the word, on a different level of just, ‘She’s telling new stories.’ It was our life.”