Cliffs Living: Storied Careers

Working in front of – and behind – the camera lens.

Linda & Michael O’Bryon focused their careers on opposite ends of the camera lens. She’s an Emmy-winning broadcast journalist and he’s a Pulitzer-nominated freelance photographer. At the end of the day, however, the couple describe themselves as storytellers.

“Storytelling is the essence of journalism,” says Linda, who retired as CEO of SCETV in 2017. “If you can tell a good story, people remember it.”

Ditto for photojournalism. “I always felt there were photographers who like to tell stories, and there were people who like to tell stories who were photographers,” adds Mike, who considers himself the latter. “To be good at photography, you have to embrace the little things in life that most people ignore.”

The dynamic duo, who now split their time between homes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and The Cliffs at Glassy, began dating as freshmen at the University of Miami in Florida, where he majored in mass communications, she in journalism.

“The irony is that Linda wanted to be a newspaper reporter, and I wanted to be a television director,” Mike shares. “We got out of school and I have never worked one day in a television station, and Linda has never worked one day for a newspaper.”

Instead, Linda honed her broadcasting skills through live television, beginning with her first job out of college doing TV news for the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City. When the couple married in 1973, she moved back to Miami, where Linda worked for a TV station and Mike was a photographer at The Miami Herald.

Eventually, she wound up in public television, forging an illustrious career punctuated with awards, culminating with The Order of the Palmetto – the highest civilian honor granted by the State of South Carolina – and a National Lifetime Achievement Emmy in Business and Financial Reporting. Indeed, Linda blazed trails as the first female news director of a TV station in South Florida, and the first female full-time president of SCETV in Columbia, South Carolina. While in Miami, she launched “Nightly Business Report,” a program that ushered in a whole new genre of business news programming.

Mike clicked with sports photography while at The Miami Herald, where he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and ended up covering the golf beat. While shooting for the paper at the Masters one year, he met some photographers from Sports Illustrated, an encounter that led to a series of freelance assignments – his photo of Jack Nicklaus made the magazine’s cover in 1986, the year Nicklaus won his sixth Masters and record 18th major championship. A historic piece of art, indeed.

Mike’s been photographing golf tournaments nearly 50 years. In that time, he’s covered 20 Masters tournaments, 10 U.S. Opens, and 10 PGA Championships. His portfolio includes shots of nearly all the golf greats of the past half-century, everyone from Greg Norman, who’s become a close friend, to Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Bryson DeChambeau, and, of course, Tiger Woods.

“I was lying down taking pictures on the driving range at TPC Sawgrass the morning Tiger won his first U.S. Amateur in 1994,” Mike recalls. “It was just Tiger and myself and he was hitting wedge shots over my head.”

At The Cliffs, Linda continues to do consulting work, recently wrapping up a series of interviews called Women Vision SC that highlights accomplished women across South Carolina. When he’s not on assignment, Mike loves taking photos of the couple’s three grandchildren atop Glassy Mountain at sunset. He has an entire hard drive dedicated to their pictures, which he estimates at more than 200,000.

Both the O’Bryons appreciate the amenities that living at The Cliffs affords them. An avid golfer and self-proclaimed “professional practicer,” Mike hits the driving range almost every day, while Linda relaxes by swimming, walking, and connecting with nature.

Storytelling is a thread that continues to weave through their personal lives. “Both Mike and I have traveled the world for work, and the people we meet here at The Cliffs come from all over,” Linda says. “It’s so nice to exchange and share those life stories.”

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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