Christine Chubbuck (Christine Chubbuck)

Christine Chubbuck

Christine Chubbuck worked for WVIZ in Cleveland for a year in 1966/1967, and attended a summer workshop in radio and television at New York University in 1967. In 1968, Chubbuck worked for a few months for public television stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Canton, Ohio, before moving on to spend four years as a hospital computer operator and two years with a cable television firm in Sarasota, Florida. Immediately before joining ABC affiliate WXLT-TV (now WWSB), she worked in the traffic department of WTOG in St. Petersburg, Florida. Several years before her death, Chubbuck had moved into the family’s summer cottage on Siesta Key, Florida. The Washington Post later reported that she had painted the bedroom and canopied bed to look like that of a young teenager. After the divorce of her parents, her mother Peg and younger brother Greg came to live in the Florida home. When Greg left, her elder brother Timothy moved in. She had a close relationship with her family, describing her mother and Greg as her closest friends. Christine Chubbuck volunteered at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, giving puppet shows to children with Intellectual disabilities, and occasionally incorporated the homemade puppets into her WXLT-TV talk show.

WXLT-TV’s owner, Bob Nelson, had initially hired Christine Chubbuck as a reporter but later gave her a community affairs talk show, Suncoast Digest, which ran at 9:00 am. Production Manager Gordon J. Acker described Chubbuck’s new show to a local paper: “It will feature local people and local activities. It will give attention, for instance, to the storefront organizations that are concerned with alcoholics, drug users, and other ‘lost’ segments of the community.” Page five of the article showed a smiling Chubbuck posed with an ABC camera. Chubbuck took her position seriously, inviting local Sarasota–Bradenton officials to discuss matters of interest to the growing beach community. After her death, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Chubbuck had been nominated for a Forestry and Conservation Recognition Award by the Bradenton district office of the Florida Division of Forestry. She was considered a “strong contender” by district forester Mike Keel, who had been originally scheduled to appear as a guest on Chubbuck’s show the morning of her suicide; he had cancelled because of the birth of his son.

Christine Chubbuck spoke to her family at length about her struggles with depression and suicidal tendencies, though she did not inform them of her specific intent beforehand. She had attempted to overdose on drugs in 1970 and frequently made reference to the event. She had also been seeing a psychiatrist up until several weeks before her death. Chubbuck’s mother chose not to tell station management of her daughter’s suicidal tendencies, because she feared Chubbuck would be fired as a result. Her focus on her lack of relationships is generally considered to be the driving force for her depression; her mother later summarized “her suicide was simply because her personal life was not enough.” She lamented to co-workers that her 30th birthday was approaching and she was still a virgin who had never been on more than two dates with a man. Her brother Greg later recalled several times she had gone out with a man before moving to Sarasota, but agreed she had trouble connecting socially in the beach resort town. He believed her constant self-deprecation for being “dateless” contributed to her ongoing depression. She had her right ovary removed in an operation the year before, and had been told that if she did not become pregnant within two to three years, it was unlikely she would ever be able to conceive.

Apparently, Christine Chubbuck had an unrequited crush on co-worker George Peter Ryan. She baked him a cake for his birthday and sought his romantic attention, only to find out he was already involved with sports reporter Andrea Kirby. Kirby had been the co-worker closest to Chubbuck, but she was offered a new job in Baltimore, which had further depressed Chubbuck. Chubbuck’s lack of a romantic partner was considered a tangent of her desperate need to have close friends, though co-workers said she tended to be brusque and defensive whenever they made friendly gestures toward her. She was self-deprecating, criticizing herself constantly and rejecting any compliments she was given. Three weeks before her death, she had asked the station’s news director for permission to do a news piece on suicide. Her suggestion was approved, and she visited the local sheriff’s department to discuss methods of suicide with an officer. In the interview, an officer told her one of the most efficient ways to commit suicide. A week before her suicide, she told Rob Smith, the night news editor, that she had bought a gun and joked about killing herself on air. Smith later told the Washington Post he did not respond to what he thought was Chubbuck’s “sick” attempt at humor. “I just changed the subject,” Smith said. “That was just too sick a joke for me.”

On the morning of July 15, 1974, Christine Chubbuck confused co-workers by claiming she had to read a newscast to open Suncoast Digest, something she had never done before. That morning’s talk show guest waited across the studio while Chubbuck sat at the news anchor’s desk. During the first eight minutes of her program, Chubbuck covered three national news stories and then a shooting from the previous day at local restaurant Beef & Bottle, at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. The film reel of the restaurant shooting had jammed and would not run, so Chubbuck shrugged it off and said on-camera, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” She drew the revolver and shot herself behind her right ear. Chubbuck fell forward violently and the technical director faded the broadcast rapidly to black. The station quickly ran a standard public service announcement and then a movie. Some television viewers called the police, while others called the station to inquire if the shooting was staged. After the shooting, news director Mike Simmons found the papers from which Chubbuck had been reading her newscast contained a complete script of her program, including not only the shooting, but also a third-person account to be read by whichever staff member took over the broadcast after the incident. He said her script called for her condition to be listed as “critical”. Chubbuck was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead 14 hours later. Upon receiving the news, a WXLT staffer released the information to other stations using Chubbuck’s script. For a time, WXLT aired reruns of the TV series Gentle Ben in place of Suncoast Digest.

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  • August, 24, 1944
  • USA
  • Hudson, Ohio


  • July, 15, 1974
  • USA
  • Sarasota, Florida

Cause of Death

  • gunshot wound


  • Cremated

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