When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in 2018, local media organizations not only faced the trauma and stress of reporting in the storm but also the damage and destruction of their newsrooms. How did newsrooms leaders handle the damage to their facilities and reassure their staff that they were safe? And how has the leadership checked in with newsroom staff and their emotional well-being directly after the hurricane and months later?
Tom Lewis is a native of Pensacola, Florida, where he and his family moved to Panama City when he was 3 years old, so he considers it his hometown. He graduated from the Gulf Coast Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in 1977 and with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1979 from the College of Communications.
Lewis became the news director at WMBB-TV in February 2016, calling it the final destination of his long journey in local television. His first job with WMBB-TV was as a reporter/anchor, but one year later, he moved to the WMBB-TV sales staff and sold advertising. In 1983, he left the broadcast business and moved to the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area and sold medical products for several Fortune 500 companies.
But he never got the news business out of his system. So, in June 1989, Lewis packed up the family and moved back to Panama City. He rejoined WMBB-TV in November 1989 as a co-anchor and producer. His responsibilities included reporting, and weekend anchoring. He eventually became weeknight anchor/executive producer and assistant news director.
In 2001, Lewis once again left WMBB-TV to help run a start-up satellite channel for the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC) in Chipley, Florida. The staff produced and broadcast programs, designed to improve teaching techniques, 24 hours a day on the Florida Education Channel over the DISH Network’s digital satellite. Tom left PAEC in 2002 to go back to TV news full-time, working as weeknight anchor, executive producer and news director.
By 2014, he decided to make another change by opening his own advertising & marketing business called Tom Lewis Agency. He operated the business until 2016 until WMBB-TV came calling and offered Lewis the News Director’s job. He jokes that this is his third and final time at WMBB but really considered it a long-overdue homecoming.
Lewis has won dozens of awards for his work with the Florida Associated Press includng Best Newscast, Best Breaking News Coverage, Best Public Service and Best Overall Coverage. Hie also received the prestigious Telly Award for a program he wrote, edited, produced and anchored on the first anniversary of the 9-11 terrorists’ attacks. He has been involved with dozens of charitable campaigns and community organizations.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Lewis to the Gulf Coast State College District Board of Trustees on Oct. 30, 2016. His term ends May 31, 2019.