Barbara Bailey: Trailblazing a path for female journalists

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 10:14 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -For 41 years, Barbara Bailey has been a trusted name in central Kentucky when it comes to news, and now she is preparing for her next chapter in life, retirement.

While Barbara has been a trusted journalist, she has also been a trusted friend to countless female journalists who have come through the WKYT newsroom.

“One of the rolls I have really embraced now is news mom. You know kind of helping people assimilate, and if they have a problem, that’s a part of it too, we are a family,” said Barbara Bailey.

I recently sat down with three former WKYT news anchors to talk about what Barbara meant to them personally and professionally.

“I think when people think of WKYT, one of the very first people think of is Barbara Bailey,” said Valeria Cummings Swope.

It’s true. No one is more synonymous with central Kentucky television news than Barbara Bailey.

For more than 40 years, she has been the one many of you at home have tuned in to see for some of the state’s biggest stories.

“She had earned everyone’s trust through the years, whether it was a breaking news story or whether it was a soft kicker she was even - she was fair, she never got flustered,” said Melanie Glasscock.

Whether she likes the title or not, Barbara Bailey has been a trailblazer for women in the news business and especially for central Kentucky women like myself.

What does Barbara Bailey mean to some of the other women who’ve come through the station?

Sheri Sparks Benscoter first came to WKYT in 1993 and anchored both the morning and late evening newscasts.

As an eastern Kentucky native, she connected with Barbara because of their mountain roots.

“She was my mentor for everything, not just the career, but you know I watched her be a mom. I watched her be a wife and have this huge career and how she balanced everything,” said Sheri Sparks Benscoter.

Barb even had a hand in Sheri’s engagement.

“She helped my husband pick out my engagement ring, I mean that was the kind of person she way she went with him to the jewelers,” said Benscoter.

Melanie Glasscock Simpson was also mentored by Barbara. Simpson started off as an intern in 1987 and would later go on to work at WKYT in the 90s.

“She had credibility, and she gracefully navigated, kind of that societal expectation of female anchors, but because she was honest, she was trusted and had a moral compass,” said Melanie Glasscock Simpson.

She remembers watching the veteran anchor help shape young journalists, including herself fresh out of college.

“She was an excellent and outstanding journalist. If you had a story that you needed a second set of eyes to look at it, you wanted Barbara Bailey to look at it because grammatically she was the best,” said Glasscock Simpson.

Valeria Cummings Swope shared the news desk opposite time slots with Barbara for many years.

Swope spent two decades herself at WKYT. She says leadership and someone who taught her the ropes of the business come first when she thinks of her fellow anchor and longtime friend.

“You know everything I learned about television I think I learned from Barbara and she gave me that gumption to say okay if Barbara can do it, I can do it too,” said Cummings Swope.

All three women applaud Barbara for not just her work in the newsroom, but its what she gave to the community that also set her apart.

“She is someone who has really set the mark high in terms of television news, in terms of caring for her community,” said Cummings Swope.

“Barbara is WKYT, she is Kentucky, she is part of our community she is a trusted part of our family,” said Glasscock Simpson.

Each of these fellow WKYT anchors agrees they learned at the feet of one of the best, and the experience was priceless.

I, too, would agree. Barbara Bailey may have spent a lifetime on the news desk, but it was she did behind the scenes that inspired countless young women to try and be just like Barb.

“In this moment in the world where we are celebrating strong, intelligent, graceful women that Barbara Bailey’s name should absolutely and deservedly be added to that list,” said Sparks Benscoter.

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