Groundbreaking journalist and FOX13 News Director, Patti McGettigan, dies after battle with cancer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 News Director, Patti McGettigan, died Saturday, February 16 after a long battle with cancer. McGettigan had beaten the deadly disease twice.

She was 53 years old. In a tribute to Patti's life and career, FOX13 anchor Mearl Purvis shared how Patti's influence stretched from local television stations across the country to the major networks.

In October, Patti began a video to the news staff by saying, "Hello my FOX13 family". Patti, who was on medical leave, recorded the video to air during a station-wide staff meeting.

Hundreds of miles away from her hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, Patti settled in to her adopted home of Memphis in 2015. Already a well-known name in journalism, Patti took on a new challenge of leading FOX13 after an ownership change.

Patti’s direct influence transformed WHBQ. FOX13 was the only station focused on serving the entire Memphis community.

Under her leadership, the station began to take a deeper look at issues impacting the community.Viewers noticed the station’s commitment to not just covering events, but investigating the rest of the story.

She refocused our team of meteorologists to pinpoint how weather impacts their lives down to their street address.

Within a year’s time, we relaunched our commitment to families under the title 'Family Focus.'

The station soon became number one in key demographics, thanks to Patti’s direction. From the reporters to producers, Patti pushed the news team to achieve excellence by finding what matters to viewers.

Her leadership efforts positioned FOX13 to become a dominant station in Memphis.

Patti had already managed newsrooms in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

As managing newsrooms took her across the country, she never lost sight of her most important role, being the mother of two children, Mollie and William.

Patti loved the arts. She knew the words to songs from the Broadway hit "Hamilton." She studied the works of famed artists like Andy Warhol. She was also a collector of antique pieces.

Patti also had eye for new talent. Before reaching Memphis, Patti hired Ginger Zee, who is currently the meteorologist for ABC's Good Morning America.

She rose into management during a time when the industry was forced to transform. News gathering, as we knew it, was evolving rapidly as computer technology developed and the internet swiftly worked its way into every aspect of our lives. Patti was a forward thinker. She saw the future and knew that she and the newsroom needed to adapt and embrace change.

As newsrooms were just getting used to Facebook, Patti was already looking forward to the next big thing, Twitter. Out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of news directors on social media, Patti snapped up the Twitter handle @NewsDirector.

An award winning journalist with a shelf of accolades highlighting excellence in the industry, Patti was a fierce competitor even in those days when cancer and the resulting treatments were wearing on her body.

Patti grew up in a time when race relations were not the best. She forced her news teams to have uncomfortable talks about race relations and the lasting impact on the communities we serve.

FOX13 News Anchor Mearl Purvis says Patti once told her she hoped to live long enough to witness the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior's assassination.

She did! In fact, Patti spent months planning the station's coverage for April 4, 2018. She was the driving force behind 14.5 hours of continuous coverage as the world remembered Dr. King.

Patti orchestrated several special reports dealing with poverty in Memphis. As she fought her second battle with cancer last summer, she laid the groundwork for FOX13 to pay off nearly $1.4 million in medical debt for 501 people across the Mid-South.

In that October video message to the staff, Patti said, "I'm a little bored, but I'm resting. Per doctor's orders, I'm not watching news...no news watching."  Purvis said, "Perhaps that was when we all knew things had shifted dramatically, because for @NewsDirector, Patti McGettigan, the news never turned off".

Purvis said, like Patti's favorite mythical animal, the unicorn, Patti was one of a kind. She rose above daily pain and sprinkled words of comfort to her staff in the middle of her own battle for life.