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Ann Nyberg is more than just one of the shoreline’s most recognizable residents, she’s also one of the most engaged in the community. In 2018, author, philanthropist, shop owner, and 30-plus year journalist at WTNH was given the Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award by the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Ann Nyberg )
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Each year the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook bestows the Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award to an individual who embodies the spirit, independence, and character of the legendary four-time Academy Award winning actress. The inaugural award was given to Dick Cavett, a famous talk show host. The next was awarded to Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close. This year, the award goes to Ann Nyberg, the longest-serving, full-time female news anchor/reporter in Connecticut television history.
While Ann says she was thrilled to receive the award, the fame or honor isn’t exactly going to her head.
“I am a founding board member of that theater, so the first person was Dick Cavett, the second award went to Glenn Close, and then the third one went to me,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wait, what is wrong with this picture?’”
Being honored in the spirit of Katharine Hepburn was a bit surreal for a woman who says she comes from rather humble beginnings—she was born in a Quonset hut on an Air Force Base in Texas.
She grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and her interest in journalism was evident right from the start.
“As a kid, I would collect information,” she says. “I never met a brochure I didn’t love and I would find out about stuff and tell people. My earliest recollection is learning to read and reading a billboard and thinking the whole world opened up, so I love to document things and always have.”
She attended Purdue University where she earned a degree in journalism. She says she thought about getting a degree in business, but found herself in an economics course for fashion retailing and realized quickly that was not going to be her area of interest.
“I graduated from Purdue in May of 1979 and in June of 1979 I was on the air at an ABC affiliate in the South Bend market doing morning cut-ins for Good Morning America,” she says. “Little stints and then I did the news in a 10 a.m. morning show, so that is how I started. They just kind of threw me on the air and said ‘Go.’ Back then, there really weren’t internships like there are now, you just kind of went and you were either going to make it or you were not going to make it.”
Her next stop was Oklahoma City, where she worked for a few years before her husband, Mark, got a post-doc appointment at Yale, bringing her to Connecticut.
This January, Ann will mark 32 years at WTNH. Over the years, she says she has focused on general assignment reporting rather than something like investigative because she says she is the kind of person who “likes to know a little bit about a lot, so everything interests me.”
While every story or assignment is interesting in its own way, two big moments stick out for Ann in her career: interviewing Barbara Walters and having the chance to sit down and interview the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite.
“I had an opportunity to sit on a stage with him at Southern Connecticut State University,” she says. “It was just me and him and we talked for an hour and a half and to me that was it. I’ve made it—I talked to Walter Cronkite.”
In TV news, Ann says you live and die by contracts and she has been lucky enough to get to stay in one place and raise her three daughters in Madison. She says there were opportunities to move to other bigger stations or posts, but she wanted to stay here to do a job she loves and raise a family.
“It’s not to say I wanted it all because none of us have it all,” she says. “There are days where the bottom just drops out, but I have three healthy kids who grew up in this town and it worked out great. Mark stayed at Yale and I am really so fortunate…I have had opportunities to leave, but I never wanted to. I wanted to be somewhere it was home. I was lucky and I still pinch myself about that.”
Her Own Spin
Over 30 years in any job might make work seem a bit routine, but Ann says she has never been one to just follow the leader. About six years ago, she started her own show, which she hosts, called Nyberg.
“What I wanted to do is spotlight people who normally couldn’t get onto television—innovators, entrepreneurs, small business people with a dream—and it has worked beautifully,” she says. “I just go down the road less traveled. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. I want to show you new things, have you be introduced to things you didn’t think about.”
Showing you something new is a skill of hers. Just recently she started doing something called Fireside Chats with Nyberg. She found a fireplace façade, stuck some wheels on it, brought it to the studio, and started using it as a prop to interview people around the building.
“So I have done 17 interviews with people who are on air and off air and found out who they are and it has taken off so much so that people are now saying, ‘Can you maybe put the candidates running for governor in front of the fireplace?’” she says. “It’s now become so commonplace that I have it parked behind the wall in the studio—it basically has a parking place—and I just wheel it around. I put it into elevators, take it up stairs and it is so stupid that it’s fun. It gets rolled out once or twice a week and we do Fireside Chats with Nyberg live on Facebook Live. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
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Ann has won numerous awards throughout her career and has been nominated for multiple Emmys. She owns her own boutique in Madison, Annie Mame, which sells a lot of Connecticut-made products. In 1993, she founded the Toy Closet Program at Yale New Haven Hospital; she says she has likely handed out close to one million toys to children of all ages. Ann is also the only honorary female member of the Walter Camp Football Foundation, which raises thousands for charity each year.
All of that sounds like enough to keep five people busy, but on top of all that, Ann has written two books. Her first, Slices of Life, A Storyteller’s Diary, came out in 2015 and her second, Remembering Katharine Hepburn: Stories of Wit and Wisdom About America’s Leading Lady, came out in 2016.
“I was approached to write a book on Katharine Hepburn and I said, ‘Well, that is ridiculous—everything that can be written about the most iconic actress of the 20th century has been written,’” she says. “But because I helped build the theater, people told me things, so I could take those little vignettes and write about them.”
Ann is vice president of The Kate Board of Trustees and a founding member of the theater. She says she loves being a part of The Kate and is still blown away by the award.
“It was highest of honors just because I have loved being on the ground floor of helping the arts and building the theater and I loved Katharine Hepburn because she didn’t take any crap from anybody,” she says. “Stuff like that doesn’t really happen in a lifetime and I was so thrilled that my peers said, ‘Hey, we would like to honor you.,”
So what is next for Ann? Staying on TV? Writing another book? Ann says she’s not sure what’s on the horizon, but she’s up for the challenge.
“You are on this planet to make a difference, you are on this planet to give back, you are on this planet to, you know, seize the day and do the most with it that you possibly can,” she says. “I hope I live a long time because there is a lot I want to do still.”
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