Shaun Rabb heated up a sausage in the office microwave for his Friday lunch, losing a precious couple of minutes in his daily battle with the clock.
Rabb, a reporter for FOX4 News, had just returned from his first interview of the day with Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. In an hour, he was off to talk to Dr. Terry Smith, the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Dallas County. In the time he between the two interviews, Rabb quickly ate the lunch he brought from home — he doesn’t have time to go out and buy food — and entered information from his interview into his computer.
“You have one enemy, and it’s the clock on that wall,” Rabb said.
In his 27 years at FOX4, Rabb has learned to work from the time he comes into the office to the moment he leaves.
“It’s not an eight-hour job,” Rabb said. “I never come to work without story ideas. You can’t be great at something when you only put a little effort into it.”
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of Rabb’s hard work came during the ambush shootings in Dallas in summer 2016. Rabb had already gone home from work for the day, but upon hearing about the shootings he headed right back to the office. He was on the air throughout the night and worked behind the scenes, contacting his sources for information.
Rabb’s hard work and passion for journalism is infectious, as others in the FOX4 studio have picked up his habits.
“He loves the business of telling the news, of gathering the news,” said fellow FOX4 reporter Dan Godwin. “That rubs off on everybody.”
“I definitely believe that he has a contagious spirit in that you see him working and you want to work,” added Elaine Catloth, a producer at FOX4 who has worked with Rabb since the station hired him.
Clad in a gray and white suit, Rabb arrives at the Lyle B. Medlock Youth Treatment Center Friday and Dr. Smith greets him with a hug. The two exchange pleasantries before entering the facility to conduct the interview.
Smith is part of the large network of people who know and trust Rabb. From politicians to citizens, the entire Dallas community seems to be part of this network.
“Everybody knows who he is, and not only knows who he is but trusts him with exclusive story ideas,” said Catloth.
His friendly demeanor helps him cultivate that trust.
“My grandmother used to say [that] you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar,” Rabb said.
Rabb interviews Smith about a hard-pressing issue. A state audit found that five boys at the treatment center for sex offenses were engaged in sexual acts at the facility while supervisors paid them no attention. Despite the gravity of the topic, Rabb kept his interaction with Smith pleasant with light-hearted conversation while the camera was off. It was clear why she liked Rabb and trusted him to do this story.
Another key to Rabb’s success as a journalist is his unbiased attitude toward the issues he covers.
“He’s very fair,” FOX4 VP Robin Whitmeyer said. “If you were to watch one of his reports, you would not know which side of the issue he comes down on.”
“As a journalist it’s not your job to impose your opinions, feelings, emotions, attitudes on the folks you are educating,” Rabb said.
Rabb’s aversion to bias has paid off with his sources. Republican and Democratic politicians trust him with information.
“These folk come to me with stuff,” Rabb said. “They don’t know if I’m Democrat or Republican, but it’s the work. They see it’s fair.”
Outside of the office, Rabb is a sports fan and has a musical taste that ranges from country to classical to gangster. He is married and has a daughter who is a senior in high school. Rabb’s main passion outside of work is religion: he is a pastor at his church and is four classes away from receiving a master’s in ministry. Whitmeyer said Rabb’s attitude and demeanor does not change outside of the office.
“There’s not a turn on and turn off for Shaun,” Whitmeyer said. “He conducts his business personally and professionally the same way. That’s who he is.”
While Rabb is on television five days a week and every important person in Dallas seems to know his name, the last thing one would call him is a big shot. Rabb can be seen holding the door for others, bending over to pick up equipment that a cameraman dropped, and having a jovial conversation with the security guard at the entrance of the FOX4 offices.
“Never take yourself seriously,” Rabb said. “In the words of Kendrick Lamar, ‘be humble.’”
Rabb has been interested in journalism from a young age. When he was a child, his grandmother made him watch the news every evening. Walter Cronkite was the anchor, and Rabb’s grandmother told him he could do what Cronkite was doing. Rabb went to school at Southwest Texas University (now Texas State) and worked in radio in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston before getting hired at FOX4. The 59-year-old has been at FOX4 ever since and plans to retire there. Even a job offer from FOX’s station in New York was not able to lure him out of Dallas.
Rabb’s coworkers at FOX4 are appreciative of his day-in and day-out work ethic and professionalism, and his presence in the newsroom brings them comfort.
“When he’s here in the newsroom, I’m confident that our product is not only gonna do well, but exceed others. Just because of him. He’s just amazing,” Catloth said.
Both Whitmeyer and Godwin immediately said “passionate” when asked to describe Rabb in one word, and after spending time with him; it’s easy to see why. Rabb has a seemingly endless fire inside him for reporting. Even while driving back to the station from the Treatment Center, Rabb discussed his story with the photographer. While some people go to work each day to pay the bills, working as a reporter clearly means much more to Rabb.
“I see myself as a change agent, a voice for the voiceless, a seeker of the truth, a finder of justice; I shine light in dark places,” Rabb said. “This is something that you have to care about.”