Suncoast Digest (partially found Christine Chubbuck episodes of WXLT talk show; 1973-1974)

From The Lost Media Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Colourised photo of Chubbuck smiling and posing with a WXLT camera.

Status: Partially Found

Suncoast Digest was a WXLT-TV channel 40 (now WWSB, ABC-7) morning talk show broadcast out of south-central Florida. It originally ran from 1973 to 1974 and featured Christine Chubbuck reporting on and discussing community affairs within Sarasota and Bradenton. While both Chubbuck and the show earned praise for their in-depth vision and scope, executive meddling due to low ratings also became a prime source of frustration for the ambitious young woman, contributing to her infamous on-air suicide at the beginning of one episode. Due to this stigma, the scant viewership and the lack of convenient professional or home recording methods at the time, most of Chubbuck's prior run as host is considered lost.


Suncoast Digest was an early-morning local talk show, airing around 9 AM for thirty minutes from Monday to Friday and created specifically to cover the subjects relevant to the communities Channel 40 served.[1][2][3] WXLT decided that then-new hire Christine 'Chris' Chubbuck, a strikingly attractive, fiercely ambitious young woman with a film & broadcasting degree from Boston University, would make the ideal host.[3][1] Chubbuck had considerable relevant experience within the television industry [2][3] and according to colleague Craig Sager, her intelligence, wit, and writing skills impressed everyone at the station.[4] In an interview, production manager Gordon Acker said that Suncoast Digest would strive to feature "lost segments of the community", including alcoholics and drug users.[1]

Chubbuck threw herself wholeheartedly into the project, seeing it as a prime opportunity to advance her broadcasting career as a serious, hard-news journalist. She wanted to delve deeper than was typical for the morning show genre, and instead provide in-depth discussions of real issues.[3][5][6][3][2] In keeping with this, she frequently interviewed local politicians, police, and other authority figures.[5][6][3][2][4] In one episode she interviewed a deputy sheriff regarding means and methods of committing suicide via handgun; the sheriff would later recall actually describing such an act at her request, complete with the most plausible weapon & ammunition.[5]

Suncoast Digest was by all accounts a great success in journalistic terms, with both Chubbuck's family and co-workers praising her work ethic and talent as a reporter. Her mother, Peg, went so far as to purchase her daughter a high-end designer wardrobe to help her look and feel more confident on air.[5][3] [3][2][5] Chubbuck gained considerable recognition for spotlighting relevant local issues,[2][5][3] at one point being nominated for a Forestry and Conservation Recognition Award.[7] A talented hobbyist puppeteer, she occasionally showcased her creations on Suncoast Digest and at local children's hospitals.[2][3] Despite all her efforts, however, the show struggled to attract an audience;[2][3] whereas some WXLT shows scored upwards of 10K viewers, Suncoast Digest often failed to even reach 500, with its maximum viewership being about 1,000.[2][3]

This led WXLT management to demand the show be revamped and focus on providing more standard, highly sensationalized news reports.[3][2][4] Chubbuck strongly objected, not wanting to thus - as she saw it - cheapen and degrade her pet project.[8] Her stance led to frequent conflicts with the show's producers, who insisted on the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy increasingly common at news stations across the country.[2][3][4] Other more cosmetic changes, such as allowing some of her colleagues to conduct interviews and adding plastic flowers to the set, also greatly angered her.[3][2][4] Nevertheless, she carried on hosting, expanding into occasionally providing news reports during the weekends.[2][3]

Christine Chubbuck's final broadcast on 15th July 1974 ended under abrupt and tragic circumstances that have been extensively documented elsewhere - ironically securing her and her show the full national news spotlight she had so craved in life.[9][2][3] Despite the shock to all concerned at WXLT, Suncoast Digest continued for at least another three years, with two other reporters taking over as hosts.[9]


Prior to April 2024, only very limited footage of Chubbuck's Suncoast Digest run had resurfaced. A few seconds of her conducting an interview (without audio) was found online, as part of the 40th anniversary of WXLT (now WWSB). A slightly longer version of this snippet, with audio restored, was showcased in the film Kate Plays Christine, as part of a 21-minute tape which was in possession of weatherman Steve Newman.[10] Ultimately Newman decided not to fully release the tape, being concerned that people only cared about Chubbuck thanks to her suicide.[10] Rebecca Hall, who portrayed Chubbuck in the 2016 biographical film Christine, claimed she had viewed 15 minutes of interview footage featuring Chubbuck in preparation for the role, but it is unknown if this referred to Newman's tape.[8] This, alongside most other footage of Suncoast Digest, remained publicly inaccessible.

On 29th February 2024, prominent Chubbuck researcher tapesignal revealed she had been in contact with John Griffin, the creator of an E! Network documentary surrounding Chubbuck's life.[11][12] In the course of their correspondence, Griffin announced he was in posession of a full Suncoast Digest episode hosted by Chubbuck, dealing with zoning issues surrounding local hospitals.[11] On 23rd April 2024, Griffin made do with his promise, sharing the full 25-minute recording to tapesignal, with the latter promptly uploading it to YouTube.[11][12] According to tapesignal, this is the only known fully intact footage of Chubbuck still in existence.[12]



The full Hospital Zoning episode, which according to tapesignal, is the only fully intact footage of Chubbuck known to still exist.

Footage provided as part of WWSB's 40th anniversary (4:59-5:24).

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Siesta Key Pelican reporting on WXLT-TV establishing Suncoast Digest Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 4th August 1974 issue of Washington Post detailing the life of Chubbuck and her time hosting Suncoast Digest. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 When Words Matter detailing the story of Chubbuck, including her career hosting Suncoast Digest and her conflicts with management. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Neuroblending detailing Sager's comments surrounding Chubbuck's hiring, and her clashes with management over their new direction. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 People detailing Chubbuck's work on Suncoast Digest, her interview with a deputy regarding suicide, and her family's attempts to support her career. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 Killing for Culture detailing Chubbuck's ambitions and the show's premise. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  7. 20th July 1974 issue of Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporting on Chubbuck's nomination for a Forestry and Conservation Recognition Award. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 Chicago Reader Hall discussing portraying Christine Chubbuck in Christine. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Show Won't Go On detailing Chubbuck's tragic final episode and the subsequent history of the show. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lost Media Forums thread discussing the footage held by Steve Newman. Retrieved 17th Nov '22
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Lost Media Wiki Forums where tapesignal announced the Hospital Zoning episode was now available on YouTube. Retrieved 24th Apr '24
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Tapesignal's tumblr blog concerning the life of Chubbuck. Retrieved 24th Apr '24