New Direction in '98 for
TV's Robin Swaboda
By Betty J. Halliburton
With the New Year
comes a new chapter in the life of popular anchorwoman
Swoboda is not making what you would call a New Years resolution. Instead,
she is making a stronger commitment to be the mother and wife that God
has called me to be.
With that commitment comes the announcement that January 8th, 1998 is
Swobodas last day as anchor on WJW s FOX 8 News at 6:00 oclock, a
spot she has held since 1996 with Co-anchor Tim Taylor.
For years, Swoboda, 39, has been one of the most well respected and
admired anchors in Clevelandand one of my personal favorites. Known for
her outgoing personality and sincere approach to news, shehas managed to
keep a large following of viewers even after leaving the Cleveland market
in 1991. Priorto that, Swoboda was with WJW from 1986 to 1991, when WJW
was the CBS affiliate in town.
Im leaving behind that instant gratification, Swoboda says. I am
looking forward to the freedom
of not having constraints put on my time.
Most of her time can now be spent with her husband of almost seven
years, former NFL Punter Bryan
Wagner and their three children; Mathew, 5, Hallie, 3 and Will, 2.
Although her husband admits he has some mixed emotions, he says he
supports her decision. The upside is shell be home and will be the mom
and wife that she is called to be. Its a very special calling, Wagner
says. She does things for them that I cant. Moms are able to nurture
in a better way. And God wants her to be at home.
On the day of our interview, Swoboda seemed very much at home in the
kitchen. She had just whipped up a batch of spice cookies with cream cheese
frosting. I used cake mix instead of baking them from scratch, She laughs.
A few years ago, I would have asked you to meet me at the Ritz or some
place else. Swoboda is now focusing on ways to make her house a place
they can truly call a home. I fantasize about being the Betty Crocker
in a Norman Rockwell painting. Swoboda laughs. But on a more serious
note, Swoboda adds, If I fail as a mom and wife, all of this has been
At this point in her life it seems that nothing could stop her decision
to leave the highly competitive
It was last March of 97, that I really felt that God was impressing
it upon my heart to quit, she
says, adding, I only work part-time. I would go in at 3:00 oclock
(in the afternoon) and I am home by 7:30. Those accommodating hours also
came with a yearly six-digit salary.
Wagner, who is also venturing out into a new career as a financial
consultant (he also writes a Sports column for Connection Magazine) says
the substantial income that his wife brings in will be missed. But he stands
by some very valuable advice given to him by a close friend. Get out of
the way and
let God do it, Wagner says. Let God take over. He will totally bless
you and take over your house.
Swoboda believes in the power of prayer and says she was at a very vulnerable
time in her life when she gave her life to Jesus Christ. I became a Christian
in 1989, she recalls. I was really searching. Although she had started
attending church, Swoboda admits she had been searching in some very
unusual places such as New Age bookstores. Swoboda remembers the very special
moment, she gave her life to Jesus Christ. I was reading a scripture in
Isaiah (1:18) that stated, though your sins be as crimson, they shall
be white as snow.
Swoboda continues, and basically, I thought I was too bad for God
to love me. I had done just terrible things and He could never ever love
me. I mean it was just a miracle, as she begins to cry. I remember this
weight being lifted off of my shoulders in my bedroom on Lakeland Avenue
in Lakewood. I was just so repentant, and I said God Ill live your way
from now on because I had really messed up. Swoboda was at the height
of her career as one of Clevelands Own with the WJW team of Tim Taylor,
Meteorologist Dick Goddard and Sportscaster Casey Coleman when she began
to seek Gods direction in every aspect of her life. She even sought God
about a husband. I said God, if there is somebody that you want me to
youre going to have to bring him to me because I cant pick them anymore.
I had been in abusive relationships, just everything you can name.
Wagner sums up their life in one sentence. Were a story in progress.
Their latest chapter that includes Swobodas decision to leave the news
business to become a stay-at-home mom has finally come full circle.
Its always been in the back of mind, she says.
Over the years, Swobodas desire to have the best of both worlds, a
family, and a television career has also weighed heavy on her heart .Back
in 1991, she sent shock waves through Cleveland by announcing her departure
from the local
television market. Her husband had just signed with the New England
Patriots after being cut by the former Cleveland
Browns. Meanwhile, NBC in New York had approached Swoboda about doing
a show called Cover To Cover with Oprah Winfreys best friend Gayle King,
who is now hosting a syndicated show of her own.
I loved my job. I loved Cleveland. I loved Tim, Dick and Casey. I loved
my life. Loved it. Well, after I told them no, Bryan and I prayed that
if God really wanted me to do that (take the job) to open up a door, Swoboda
says. And low and behold that very same day the vice president of NBC
said I understand you told us no, and we really wish you would reconsider.
Swoboda said yes this time. My last day, I sobbed. My body went numb on
the air. I was just sick to leave.
Despite a great opportunity to be in the national spotlight, things
got rough for the young couple. Three weeks into the football season, the
Patriots cut Wagner from the roster. Swoboda was expecting their first
child, and had developed an illness called Pregnancy Induced Asthma.
I remember praying, Lord I just cant take this anymore, she recalls.
They had to put me on steroids. And they were talking about putting me
in the hospital. God answered Swobodas prayer. Cover To Cover was cancelled.
Gods hand was truly on me during that whole thing because I think I loved
my job more than I couldve loved my marriage and my child.
Swoboda, the eldest of four children, admits adjusting to the duties
of motherhood wasnt easy. I was working since the time I was 18 years
old, She explains. And my mother didnt stay home with me so I didnt
I didnt know what I was doing. So she prayed that God
would send her
back to work.
You guessed it. Swoboda got another offer to anchor the news for the
NBC affiliate in Kansas City. The location was a plus for Swoboda because
her hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri was just a few miles away.
Swoboda recalls the sickness that came over her when she signed
the contract. I knew I had made a big mistake.
The Lord was definitely dealing with Swoboda over her decision to go
back to work. In Gods infinite wisdom, He used a cover of Time Magazine
that showed a starving child from Somalia to speak to Swobodas heart.
There were flies all over their eyelashes, Swoboda breaks into tears.
And there was something in the childs mouth and I couldnt figure out
what it was, and I read the caption and it says a mother tries to nurse
her child to keep the baby alive. It just killed me, she says in
a quivering voice. Here I am working nine, ten, eleven hours a day,
six days a week so I can buy clothes at Baby Gap ... and we can have a
fine house. Swoboda worked a whole four months before turning in her
She says something good did come out of going to Kansas City. God allowed
me to touch people there through the whole thing, she explains. I got
letters one after the other.
Swoboda vowed that she would not go back to work unless it was at WJW
TV-8 in Cleveland.
In the meantime, she had three years to adapt to her role as a full-time
mother. I loved it. I did. I would never be one of those moms who could
pick up and go to the zoo, go to the museum and they go here and there.
Theyve got the jamboree going, Swoboda illustrates. I am the one that
sits on the floor and plays with the toys and does wacky things and sing
songs and dance around the kitchen floor while making nutritious peanut
butter and honey sandwiches. She says in a sarcastic voice.
Then in 1996, the revolving door of opportunity opened up once again
in Cleveland. Wilma Smith formally of ABC Affiliate WEWS was signed to
do the 5 oclock and 11 oclock evening news on WJW. Anchorwoman Denise
Dufula, who filled Swobodas old spot went over to WOIO, the new CBS affiliate.
That left a cozy opportunity for Swoboda to slip back in as a part-timer
doing one newscast a day.
At first it was real fun getting back to work. I work with some of
the nicest people in the whole wide world, she adds. But its just not
Swoboda is now adjusting to her new role at home, but not before leaving
some lasting impressions on her co-workers. The thing that really stands
out in my mind is her personality and wit, FOX 8 News
Anchor Wayne Dawson says. She goes by her instincts and she is not
afraid to take a chance. Not
everybody could walk away from a job that so many people want.
But what Swoboda says she wants now more than ever is to be the mother,
wife and vessel that Jesus
Theres no question that Robin Swoboda has a special calling and many gifts.
She is one of Gods treasures in the kingdom. And because of her willingness
to do Gods will, Swoboda will be even more successful as a wife, mother
and yes, a woman
has purposed her to be. As for her decision to leave the news business,
Swoboda has one final remark. If I had all of the
success in the television industry, it would be for not. Im done with
storing up earthly treasures. I am looking forward to storing up treasures