Sucked Back Into TV News


Charles Billi has been around the TV News game for a longtime.

He's worked in small markets like Macon, GA. and big markets like Cleveland and Miami. He's now an Anchor at WTSP in his home town of Tampa.

Billi is one of those guys that is always thinking what else can he do? He likes to take risks and try new things. While anchoring in Miami, Billi started a website that was based on life in his home town of Tampa.

The website did well and Billi left Miami TV News to head back to Tampa. He got out of TV News, but he ended up getting sucked back in.

FTVLive talked to Billi about journey in and out of TV news.

You've spent a lot of years anchoring TV news, what drew you to TV?

I have always loved the urgency of news. I used to watch the news with my dad when I was a boy, and I fell in love with the "nowness" of it.  It only made sense that I would later major in mass comm in college and start a tv internship. Information comes very quickly, and you have to be able to meet that challenge with accuracy and aplomb.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love a challenge, and everyday is a challenge in a modern newsroom.

You worked a dozen years at WSVN in Miami, what were some of the highlights?

I was very fortunate to have been welcomed into the newsplex (WSVN calls their newsroom the "Newsplex" and it's quite impressive).  It was an honor to work there, and one few can claim.  It takes a special type to be able to compete at the SVN level, and SVN sets the bar incredibly high.  The demands and expectations aren't always easy.  It takes grit and glam.  You must possess both and then some.  That's why they say if you can work at SVN, you can work anywhere.   I loved the slickness and pace of SVN.  I loved the graphics and music.  For me, the packaging of news is just as important as the content itself.  That is the secret of SVN.   As far as highlites go, I covered  2 wars, 9-11, Elian, hurricanes, and interviewed world leaders like Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Madeline Albright.  I covered cats in drainpipes, gator invaders, and pesky peacocks.  I've chased down bad guys, hung off the sides of listing ships, jumped off bridges, and stradled palm trees.  I did anything and everything.  I loved every minute of it......well almost :)  

While working in Miami you started a website centered around Tampa...tell us about it?

BIGTAMPA.COM is my website.  It focuses on all things hip, trendy, and cosmopolitan in Tampa.  Events, clubs, music concerts, art shows, stage productions, sexy and successful people...doesn't matter.  If it's new, trendy or cutting edge, we cover it.  Tampa has much to offer, but it's usually not packaged well and rather pedestrian.  I think the powers that be misunderstand and underestimate the power of sizzle. So BIGTAMPA.COM brings the sizzle with plenty of eye candy. 

You were anchoring in Miami, why did you pick Tampa for the website?

I'm from Tampa.  My family is here.  I went to school here. GO USF!  GO BULLS!   I wanted to come back. Miami was a great life experience, but not where I wanted to call home. 

You left Miami and headed to Tampa and working full time on BigTampa. Was that a scary leap of faith?

LOL. Ask any of my friends...I'm fearless.  I take flying leaps into the unknown!  Nothing deters or frightens me.  If I want to do it, I'll do it, and I'll figure out a way to get it done.  I've always been like that, ever since I was a boy. 

How much did you miss TV news and what did you miss while you were on the outside looking in? 

To be honest, it didnt hit me for about a year.  When the political primaries started, it was a done deal.  I knew what I had to do, tv news.  I didnt realize how much I missed it until then.   

So, you left TV News, but you got sucked back in? How did that come about?

This is a small business, and almost everybody knows everybody.  It just so happened that a news director here in Tampa already knew my work.  I expressed interest, and I was later hired.  I am very grateful for the opportunity.  I really like TSP, and we are definitely the edgiest news product in Tampa, so I feel right at home and ready to rock.     

If someone was looking to get out of TV for a so call "real job" what advice would you give them?

Follow your heart.  If you want something, go get it.  Ignore the naysayers.  Journalists are smart resourceful people.  We all land on our feet.    Whether its back in news or a new direction.  It's exciting.

You've been in TV News a long time, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the industry over the years?

1. technology

2. thinking about what news *is* in new and different ways.

You seem to have the entrepreneur bug inside you, are you thinking about trying anything else besides TV News?

I opened a small home goods store for awhile when I first came back to Tampa, then I dabbled in woodworking and millwork. I also considered opening a landscape nursery.  I would never restrict or limit myself.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll run for mayor.  If I really want something badly enough, I'll find a way.  That's what's fun and exciting about life...the opportunities are endless.