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Shelby Scott, Longtime News Anchor and Former AFTRA President, Dies at 86

Scott worked in local news in Boston for 31 years and served as AFTRA president from 1993 to 2001

Shelby Scott, a longtime local news anchor in Boston and a former president of AFTRA, has died at the age of 86, SAG-AFTRA announced.

Born in Seattle and a graduate of the University of Washington, Scott got her start in news for her local TV and radio station KIRO as a traffic reporter before expanding to on-air reporting, writing, editing and producing. In 1965, she was hired by CBS Boston affiliate WBZ, going on to become part of the affiliate’s first all-female anchor team with Gail Harris during her 31-year career at the station.

During the ’80s and ’90s, she left the anchor desk and returned to the field, becoming known amongst Massachusetts viewers for her storm coverage. She was particularly known for using her height rather than inches as a measuring unit for snowfall, something that the Boston Globe would later emulate in tribute by measuring snowstorms in “Shelby Scotts.”

During this time, Scott also got involved with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), joining the union’s national board in 1981 and later serving as Boston local president and national vice president. In 1993, she was elected president of AFTRA, serving in that position until 2001 and leading the union through multiple contract negotiations and the first attempted merger with the Screen Actors Guild.

After her term as president ended, Scott continued to serve in leadership roles at AFTRA, including as national vice president, co-chair of the AFTRA health and retirement plan’s board of trustees, and president of AFTRA Foundation, where she established a relief fund for union members affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Scott was also a member of the workgroup which in 2012 oversaw the merger of SAG and AFTRA into one nationwide labor organization.

“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.” 

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