Marcia Fluer made a major mark on local TV news. One of the first female anchors in this market, she co-hosted WCCO’s highly regarded “Newsday” program and was inducted into the Pavek Museum Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2003.
But Fluer never set out to become a broadcaster at all. The native of Toledo, Ohio, studied theater at Northwestern. “It was my first passion,” she said, “but you have to live.” So to pay the bills, she became an English teacher and did theater on the side.
She met her husband, actor Phil Ross, when they were cast opposite each other in “South Pacific.” “She was Nellie and I was Emile,” said Ross.
After they married in 1968, Fluer and Ross formed a singing group with another couple and performed in Twin Cities clubs.
“Then I got into the real showbiz: television news,” Fluer said.
It was a serendipitous start. The singing group, which was disbanding, did a “breakup show” that was broadcast on local TV. “A guy told me they were looking for a ‘token female’ in the newsroom at Channel 5. He thought I’d be good at it,” Fluer recalled.
She applied, and was hired as an entertainment reporter. It was 1972, “the Watergate summer,” she recalled, and she was soon enlisted to help with hard news. “I covered a couple of important stories, and it kicked off my television career,” she said.
One memorable assignment was a local VFW convention at which Spiro Agnew and Julie Nixon Eisenhower were appearing. “It was two women and 5,000 guys,” Fluer recalled. Comedian George Jessel grabbed her and kissed her, on camera.
That wasn’t her only brush with sexism during the “Ron Burgundy” era of TV news. As a female journalist, “we weren’t allowed to travel” for stories, she recalled. “We were told the wives of the photographers would get jealous.”
Fluer also was informed that she had “the wrong mouth” for TV. “My smile was crooked,” she said.
But she persevered, becoming a political correspondent, general-assignment reporter and weekend anchor, before jumping to WCCO.
Fluer considered her reporting an extension of her career in education. “You’re a history teacher,” she said.
And when she watches TV news today, she can’t help wishing more journalists thought the same. “They say things without reading yesterday’s news,” she said. They mispronounce words and use incorrect grammar. “Please use objective case after a preposition,” she said, with a laugh. “I scream at the television all the time. I’m turning into an old crank.”