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Legendary Boston Reporter, Shelby Scott, Dies at 86

Published Monday Jun 6, 2022

Legendary Boston Reporter, Shelby Scott, Dies at 86

According to SAG-AFTRA, broadcaster Shelby Scott, who served as AFTRA national president from 1993–2001 has died at the age of 86.

“In front of the camera, Shelby Scott’s career spanned decades and broke barriers. But it is for her work off camera as a dedicated union leader that we at SAG-AFTRA will always be most grateful,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “As AFTRA national president for eight years, and a board member for many more, as a trustee on the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, and through her foresight in working to merge SAG and AFTRA, Shelby’s legacy is profound and she will be deeply missed.” 

Scott began her professional career as traffic manager for KIRO-TV and radio in her hometown of Seattle, before becoming an on-air reporter, writer, film editor and documentary producer for the station. In 1965, she was hired by Boston CBS affiliate WBZ, spending many years as both an anchor and general assignment reporter. She co-anchored WBZ’s  Channel 4 News at Noon  for 14 years, its 5:30 News  for five years and became part of its first female anchor team there in 1977, with Gail Harris. 

She stayed behind the anchor’s desk until the mid-1980s, returning to the field as a reporter, where she was assigned to cover the Massachusetts State House. She left her mark in the minds of a generation of New Englanders in the ’80s and ’90s, braving the elements covering storms, while appearing in her signature wool cap. She was known to report snowfall totals by using her height as a marker and eventually the Boston Globe measured snow totals by “Shelby Scotts” instead of feet.   

She retired in 1996 but continued to freelance whenever a major storm came to town.  

Over the course of her broadcasting career, she was awarded United Press International’s Tom Phillips Citation for Excellence in Broadcasting, the William F. Horner Jr. Award from Suffolk University for Excellence in Journalism and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2008.  

Scott was elected to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists National Board in 1981 and became president of the union in 1993, after serving as a national first vice president and president of the Boston Local. She led AFTRA through its first attempted merger with Screen Actors Guild in 1998/99, and through numerous major contract negotiations, including the AFTRA Network and Sound Recordings codes. In 1997, during her term as national president, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. For her devoted service to the union, Scott was awarded AFTRA’s George Heller Gold Card. 

After leaving office in 2001, Scott remained in board service, serving again as a national vice president. She also served as the union co-chair to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds Board of Trustees and as the president of the AFTRA Foundation. Scott was a member of the Group for One Union of SAG and AFTRA leaders who spearheaded the 2012 merger effort and co-led a merger workgroup, one of only ten elected leaders to do so.

During her term as AFTRA Foundation president, she helped set up the Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund in 2012 to help all SAG-AFTRA members and staff affected by the storm.  

Scott was born in Washington State in 1936. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington’s School of Communications in 1957 and later received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Notre Dame College in NH.

SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, influencers and other entertainment and media professionals. Visit SAG-AFTRA online at

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