Journalist Bert Shipp remains an iconic figure in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where he covered the news from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Working most famously with WFAA-TV Channel 8 in Dallas, Shipp reported at a time of critical transition in journalism, as people began receiving the majority of their news from television instead of newspapers. In this memoir of compelling stories from his career, Shipp focuses on the 1950s and 1960s, when not only the news industry, but Texas itself, experienced dramatic changes.
Details at 10 is a collection of anecdotes about Shipp's years chasing the news around North Texas, rather than a full autobiography. Many of his recollections are quite humorous and written with great wit. A bad case of food poisoning ruined Shipp's proclivity for finding the best free lunches around town. A group of prostitutes attacked him while he reported on their recent arrests, causing a jailhouse brawl between the ladies and the police. Shipp even found himself swimming in the polluted Trinity River in an effort to salvage a staged story that he filmed for the nightly broadcast. He worked hard, but found time to frequent local taverns where he enjoyed drinking cold beer, flirting with pretty women, and talking shop with other reporters.
Yet although Details at 10 contains many comical episodes, Shipp also discusses serious matters that provide a window into Texas in the 1950s and 1960s. He illustrates Dallas's experience with the civil rights movement during these years. Although city leaders quietly cooperated with African American leaders to pursue integration, Shipp notes this development primarily occurred to avoid incidents that might harm Dallas's reputation and economic climate. Nevertheless, the reporter witnessed evidence of simmering racial tensions in the Metroplex. Employees forcibly removed Shipp from bus stations and lunch counters when [End Page 407] he covered sit-ins protesting segregation. African Americans living near Fair Park expressed frustration with city firefighters' slow response to a fire that killed a baby, believing they would have arrived much sooner if the tragedy occurred in a white neighborhood. A white police officer shot and killed a handcuffed black man and apparently faced no departmental discipline, much less arrest. Shipp recalls the awkward relationship between the press and the police, both of which relied upon but did not trust each other. Shipp covered stories about murder, bank robberies, and grinding poverty, reminding us that Texas in the 1950s and 1960s could be a violent and depressing place. He found himself in the middle of some of the most famous events of the era: at Parkland Hospital providing one of the first reports of President John F. Kennedy's death; in Southeast Asia investigating the location of missing Americans from the Vietnam War; and in the Beatles' dressing room conducting a private interview with the musicians during their tour stop in Dallas.
Shipp is an engaging storyteller, and his memoir is both entertaining and informative to read. More discussion about his experience in Vietnam would be interesting, as would a continuation of his story through the ensuing decades. How did Dallas handle race issues in the 1970s and 1980s, as busing and affirmative action became important topics? How did Shipp, and the larger field of journalism, react to the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s? Perhaps Shipp could address these issues in a sequel, which this historian would most welcome and look forward to reading. Bert Shipp's Details at 10 is an enjoyable and thought-provoking work that will appeal to readers interested in the history of journalism and Texas itself during these transformative years for the industry and the state.