By Olivia Sanchez
Having graduated at the University of Miami at a time when television was in black and white and there was no live field reporting, Richard Lobo saw enormous changes as he navigated his way to the top of the industry.
As a student, Lobo worked weekends as a reporter/photographer for WTVJ under the direction of his UM professor, the pioneering TV anchorman and news director Ralph Renick.
Lobo, who graduated in 1958, later competed against Renick when he went on to report for Miami’s Channel 7, where he had his first big break: the opportunity to cover the early days of the Cuban Revolution. The station won a Peabody award for Lobo’s work.
A second-generation Cuban-American, Lobo was the only Spanish-speaking TV reporter in Miami when he was assigned to cover a political tour through Latin America with U.S. Senator George Smathers of Florida.
Smathers helped obtain interviews for Lobo with Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Lobo also interviewed Fidel Castro in Cuba.
“At the time, Castro was sending people to their death in front of firing squads,” Lobo said. “I was not intimidated because I was young and brash. It was an ‘ambush interview,’ and Castro wasn't prepared.”
The resulting Castro footage aired not only on local TV in Miami, but also on the Today Show and the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC.
Lobo continued to work at Channel 7 News for two years, after which he moved to New York City, where CBS was launching a local news department at its flagship station, WCBS-TV. Lobo was part of the station’s five original reporters, all selected from the best across the country.
Although he started his career in the news end of the business, by the end of 1970, Lobo had moved to management in Cleveland and Chicago.
When Lobo returned to WTVJ in 1988, it was as president and general manager.
“I came full circle,” he said.
While Lobo was running WTVJ in Miami in 1992, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida. The station staff stayed on the air for four days without commercials and was eventually recognized as having saved lives.
“My team was credited with being heroes of that storm,” Lobo said.
The station won an Emmy, a duPont Award, a Peabody Award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award for the work.
Lobo’s dedication to his career affected all aspects of his life.
“It made me kind of a gypsy,” he said. “I moved 11 times, and that impacted my marriage and my family. It was heartbreaking. But over the years, I've had a fabulous career.”
The School of Communication did not exist in 1958, so Richard Lobo graduated from what was then the University of Miami’s Radio/TV/Film Department. In 1982, after the School of Communication was established, it honored him as an SoC Alum of Distinction.
Brian Weinblatt, the school’s senior development director, refers to Lobo as a great example for current UM students.
“Students like to see the path that alums took during their careers,” he said. “He has a wealth of experience in his field and he has taken the ‘U’ brand along with him.”
In 1994, Lobo was appointed director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting by President Clinton. In that position, he oversaw the Radio and TV Marti operations.
President Obama nominated him to be the director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, where Lobo served from 2010 to 2013. There, he served as the main contact point for administrative and technical support for that federal agency.
Since retirement, Lobo said, he has been reflecting on changes occurring in the media business.
“I am discouraged to see many of the decisions made in journalism now,” he said. “The TV news industry has diminished over the years, with fewer public affairs programs and documentaries.”
He has also gotten involved in several civic projects. Lobo now lives in Coconut Grove, and he has been involved in the recent efforts to bring back the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
“With each job or project, I felt I made important contributions to my communities,” he said.
Olivia Sanchez is a senior majoring in international studies.
Photo courtesy of the Broadcasting Board of Governors