Wednesday was the last day on air for longtime WTVD reporter Greg Barnes, who has retired after 35 years at the station – but he concedes he may still answer his phone with “WTVD, Greg Barnes” for the rest of his life.
Barnes, 66, joined the station in 1983, opening and running the ABC11 Eyewitness News Fayetteville Bureau. He is particularly well known to WTVD viewers in Fayetteville and Eastern North Carolina and has received awards for his coverage of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne and its deployments to Panama and the Persian Gulf. He counts his experiences covering the 82nd Airborne as some of the best of his career.
“I loved every single homecoming at Fort Bragg,” Barnes said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I loved being there and seeing the soldiers marching back from Iraq or Afghanistan, with their family and kids there. When you see that, you know the world is right. Those are the happiest stories we did.”
Barnes said the saddest story he covered was the murder of Shaniya Davis, a five-year-old girl given by her mother to a drug dealer to pay a drug debt.
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“It touched us all really deeply. It’s still hard to talk about.”
Barnes said the death of his good friend and colleague Larry Stogner, a revered WTVD anchor who died last year after a short battle with ALS, got him to thinking about retirement.
“Larry Stogner’s death really knocked me back,” said Barnes. “He was not only a mentor to me, but he was a very dear friend and we’d joke and talk about retiring and enjoying life. To have something attack you that fast and take your life that quick, it really had me thinking.
“I have two granddaughters and great friends and want to enjoy my time.”
Barnes said he and his wife Lynne plan to spend time traveling and sightseeing, joking that he will soon be “assigned to Oak Island, counting grains of sand.”
Before WTVD, Barnes worked for two years at WECT in Wilmington. In 1993, he was a recipient of the Associated Press “Roy Hardee” Award.
“TVD is home for me and has been home and always will be,” said Barnes. “I’ll miss interacting with the people. It humbles you in this business because people say they listen to us and watch us because they trust us. I’m overwhelmed by the trust people have.”