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Former WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell wants to talk about 'the good stuff'

Ben Schmitt
| Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, 2:48 p.m.
Former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell is shown at her home in Point Breeze, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Bell will be starting an online subscription news service called Positively Wendy Bell near the end of summer.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell is shown at her home in Point Breeze, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Bell will be starting an online subscription news service called Positively Wendy Bell near the end of summer.
Former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell is shown at her home in Point Breeze, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Bell will be starting an online subscription news service called Positively Wendy Bell near the end of summer.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell is shown at her home in Point Breeze, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Bell will be starting an online subscription news service called Positively Wendy Bell near the end of summer.

Former WTAE-TV news anchor Wendy Bell is looking to turn her positivity into profitability.

Bell, who was fired by the television station last year for an online comment she posted on the company's Facebook account, remains extremely popular on social media. More than 90,000 people follow her Facebook page, Positively Wendy Bell.

Now she's planning to turn that account into a subscription-based website with the same name. The page would charge $3.99 monthly for viewers to join in what she described Saturday as “an interactive community of people looking for the goodness that is out there.”

Bell, a Point Breeze resident with five sons, said she plans to have the website up and running by summer. She's already banked a series of interviews and stories that she wrote and edited on her own.

“I think we all need to talk more about the good stuff,” she told the Trib. “No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am constantly reminded by the overwhelming goodness in people. It's so easy to lose sight of that if you pay attention to the regular news.”

Bell said the idea came to her when she was at her lowest point after being fired.

WTAE fired Bell for an online comment she posted following the March 9 massacre of five people and an unborn child in a backyard barbecue ambush in Wilkinsburg.

Bell speculated in that post about the race and family background of the shooters and contrasted that profile with her recent encounter with a black busboy.

The company fired her March 30 amid outcry from people who labeled the post insensitive. She also had many supporters rally behind her on social media.

“There's nothing more painful than being called — internationally — an ugly, ugly word,” she said. “Being called a racist is absolutely awful. I went through a very dark phase of life and came out on the other side.”

In a post that was later edited, then deleted from a Facebook fan page, Bell wrote: “You needn't be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. ... They are young black men, likely teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs.”

In the same post, she said she was given “hope” by a hardworking black busboy at a South Side Works restaurant who “moved like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. ... He's going to make it.”

The post, the company's delayed reaction and Bell's subsequent firing drew widespread public criticism on social media.

“That family got killed a mile and a half from my house,” she said Saturday. “It took my breath away.”

Bell sued the station in June, claiming racial discrimination. That litigation is ongoing.

She said that she hasn't cut her hair since being fired and doesn't plan to until the lawsuit is resolved.

While she hasn't completely ruled out a return to television, she is pouring all of her energy into the website.

“I've been a journalist for a quarter century,” Bell said. “To learn this all on my own, and to sink or swim with the website really is the American dream.”

Bell posts weekly stream-of-consciousness videos on her Facebook page at 9:11 p.m. each Wednesday. She calls the posts “Video Thursday.” Sometimes, she said, she goes to bed after posting and wakes up with 10,000 views.

“I'm amazed with how many people have followed me on there and continue to join me every day,” she said. “With this new site, I want people to reach out to me and reach out to each other. They lift me up as much as I do them.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Contact him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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