News and HeadlinesBlack History Month

Actions

Paving the Way: WRTV's Barbara Boyd was the first African American female reporter in the state of Indiana

Barbara Boyd.png
Barbara Boyd (1).jpg
Posted at 7:40 PM, Feb 23, 2023

The name Barbara Boyd means something in Indiana and at WRTV.

As Indiana's first African American woman broadcast journalist and one of the first women to anchor a newscast, Boyd was a pioneer in the news industry. She spent 25 years here at WRTV between 1969 and 1994 serving and reporting in central Indiana.

We invited her back for a one-on-one with WRTV's Marc Mullins to discuss her legacy the role she played in Indiana's Black history.

It was February of 1969 when Boyd started working at Indiana's first television station, WFBM, now WRTV.

She says she was lost on her first day in a new world. It was tough enough to be a woman in what was a man's industry at the time, but to be a black woman brought extra challenges and hurdles.

She recalled one time, early on, when she says she was underestimated and how it pushed her to work harder.

"I don’t think you're suited for this. I don't think you'll make it here," Boyd still recalls the exact words spoken to her.

"That's all I needed to hear," she said. "I was gonna fly then. I was going to make it - hell or high water - not only for myself, but I know there are black people in this city that were depending on me to do well."

"I wasn't going to let them down. I wasn't going to let my family down. And I wasn't going to let me down, because I had been challenged."

Boyd said she caught on quickly and excelled at her beat, consumer affairs.

MORE | Photos from Barbara Boyd's 25-year career at WRTV

In 1969, she was both making history as the first Black female reporter in Indianapolis and watching history, working during the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement.

She said the mood in Indianapolis and the entire country during that period of history was "hot and heavy." And she said certain incidents still stand out from that time period - like the burning of a grocery store in the Indiana Avenue area.

"It was just tension," she said. "People didn't trust one another. There was a real divide there. Rioting. Minor rioting. Not a lot. But on the avenue, when they burned down that grocery store on the Avenue, that was serious stuff."

That was the climate of the late 60s and early 70s, but Boyd was using her talent to bridge racial gaps in a way only she could.

She used her reports and her man-on-the-street style interviews to make connections.

"I can't change the whole situation between black people and white people," Boyd says, "but I tell you what i can do, I can relate to you one on one. I can change my own little world."

In 1973, Boyd would make history again - this time in a special report that connected with all women.

Boyd reported from her hospital bed at Community Health as she recovered after having a mastectomy.

Barbara Boyd 1973 Mastectomy

Using her own experience, she would empower women to take control of their health.

After her procedure, Boyd traveled the country - speaking on radio stations about the importance of self-breast examinations.

She had used her own experience to empower women to take control of their health.

Boyd then traveled the country, speaking on radio stations about the importance of self-breast examination.

Beyond her personal health experience, Boyd's consumer reports also helped Hoosiers learn how to stretch a dollar and understand inflation.

During her career she says she was just focused on doing her work the best she could. She never considered the fact that she was also paving the way for other Black female journalists.

Barbara Boyd Standup Compilation

Boyd retired from WRTV in 1994 after 25 years of reporting for central Indiana.

But even today, at the age of 93, she continues to impact the community she lives in.

Her message for young black women: "Don't be afraid to do whatever you want to do. Not just in journalism."

And if you grew up watching Barbara Boyd, you likely remember her signature sign-off at the end of each newscast - she says it's now her mantra to life.

"You have a great day and stay on top of the world."

Barbara Boyd Hallway Clip

Boyd may have been the first Black female journalist on Indy TV airwaves, but she says she is proud to see people of color on every local station in 2023 she she feels honored to be a part of that legacy.

Boyd has received many accolades and awards during her career from organizations like the Indiana Association of Broadcasters awards and the American Cancer Society.

She will celebrate her 94th birthday this spring.