Fariss' career at WCKT is a local Miami legend. Starting in 1958, Fariss first anchored the 6p.m. news and later added the 11 p.m. edition to his duties. He also traveled overseas to report on situations in the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War and the Syrian bombing of the Golan Heights area. Another trip to the Caribbean Isle of Anguilla covered a revolution of independence. The Dominican Republic, British Guiana, Canada, and a trip with several United States Governors to Russia were among his assignments. Returning from Russia in 1959, Fariss was sent immediately to Cuba for coverage of Castro's revolution. Fariss witnessed the 'Circus Trials' of accused Batista henchmen, and reported on their executions. Fariss interviewed Castro and many other top Cuban government officials, and felt their heat when he won the first of four Freedoms Foundation Awards and a total of 11 All-American Conference to Combat Communism Vigilant Patriot Honors for the Promotion of Americanism. WCKT's news department received a Peabody Award and the Univ. of Missouri Gold Medallion Award for outstanding service to journalism, among many other honors.
Miami was a hot point for news after the 1959 Cuban revolution, the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost resulted in the United States and Russia going to war. WCKT was there to cover it all with Fariss as the anchor. Fariss watched the incredible expansion of the Miami area as it became a major population center with expressways, airports, and the Cuban exodus, which swelled the number of immigrant residents. "I couldn't pay anybody enough for the experience I had in television," reflects Fariss. "I saw things and went to places I wouldn't have gone otherwise. It was truly an educational experience."
Because Miami is a popular vacation spot for out-of-state station owners and program directors, Fariss fielded offers from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Washington D.C., and New York. He finally took the big-market plunge in 1969 and anchored for WBBM, the CBS station in Chicago. Concerned over the crime rate and use of drugs rampant in the school system, Fariss returned his family to Miami two and a half years later and rejoined WCKT for another 12 years. This brought the total amount of time he spent at WCKT (now WSVN-TV) to an incredible 26 years. He took early retirement from there in 1984 at the age of 55.
After considering a real estate career, Fariss became V.P. of news and anchor at WEVU in the Naples/Ft. Myers market. A major heart attack several months later followed by open heart surgery suggested to Fariss that a real retirement was advisable. Fariss took up real estate and left the broadcasting business behind, except for a return visit to Miami in May of 2002 to accept a "Silver Circle" Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Looking back almost 50 years to his time at WTVT, Fariss says it was a great run: "Channel 13 was a big booster in my overall career. You learn so much by shooting, writing, editing, and anchoring. I'll always be grateful to them for the opportunity to keep learning and growing.
BIG 13 thanks Wayne Fariss, another YEAR ONE WTVT employee, for sharing his history.
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