Joe Birch co-anchors Action News 5 at 5, 6 and 10 o'clock weeknights on WMC-TV.
Joe marks his 35rd year of service to WMC-TV and its viewers in 2013. Joe joined WMC in 1978 as Tennessee's first television station was about to celebrate its 30th anniversary on the air. Joe now has served the Memphis NBC affiliate for more than half of the station's remarkable life. In 2009, the Emmy Award winning News Anchor was inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his marathon of service to WMC's viewing audience.
Joe checked a big item off his “bucket list” this year by visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the first time and taking Action News 5 viewers front and center for Memphis Soul: In Performance at The White House. Memphis musicians and artists from Stax records who made their mark in the Bluff City performed for the First Family in a memorable,
nationally broadcast production. Other journalistic credits in the past year include Joe’s stories about a young man nicknamed “Ingram the Conqueror”. The Germantown boy, a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has encouraged thousands of people and along with his dynamic older sisters and parents, has raised significant financial gifts for the Memphis based hospital which is now America’s #2 health care charity. Joe has introduced Action News 5 viewers to John Michael Talbot, a musical monk with an Arkansas monastery and a worldwide following. On Super Bowl Sunday, Joe presented the first television interview ever with the mother of Baltimore Ravens star lineman Michael Oher, the focus of the book and movie, The Blind Side. Denise Oher told her story to Joe after the two had discussed doing the interview for years.
Joe has traveled across America and around the world for WMC. He spent 25 days in Atlanta, covering Memphians and Mid-Southerners attending the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Birch visited the People's Republic of China for three weeks in 1986 to cover a visit by representatives of Memphis In May International Festival which honored China in 1987. The newsman went on assignment to Italy in 1992 to prepare a documentary on the Memphis bound Wonders cultural series exhibition from the Vatican Museums. During that assignment, Birch met Pope John Paul II and recorded the exchange for broadcast on Action News 5. Birch told the Holy Father, "the people of Memphis send you their warmest greetings." The Pontiff responded in his Polish accent, "God-a-bless-Tennessee."
Closer to home, Birch has won honors from the National Council on Problem Gambling for his reports on the positive economic and damaging social implications of casinos in the Mid-South.
Joe also serves as host of WKNO TV 10's Smart Medicine. The monthly program on the Memphis PBS affiliate highlights the latest news from the Memphis medical community and focuses on health and fitness in the Mid-South.
Birch has won numerous awards for his charitable and civic endeavors. In late 2010, the Memphis based St. Martin de Porres Shrine and Institute named Birch one of three honorees for service to the community. In 2009, Joe Birch was named "Newsmaker of the Year" by the Memphis Gridiron Show, Inc., an award cherished by the newsman because it had once been bestowed on Joe's hero, the late entertainer Danny Thomas, Founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Joe's other 2009 honors include Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP/ Memphis Chapter) as well as the Ave Maria Award for years of service to the Ave Maria Nursing Home in Bartlett, TN. In 2008, Christian Brothers University made the newsman the 14th recipient of the Maurelian Medal, CBU's highest award for service to the University or community. Diversity Memphis (formerly the National Council of Christians and Jews) named Birch 2008 Humanitarian of the Year along with four other Memphians noted for community service. Birch is the first "on air" personality to win this award in the organization's long history. Birch received the 2008 St. Peter the Rock Award for his service to St. Peter Villa, the nursing home and rehabilitation center where Joe's beloved father spent the last year and a half of his life. In 2007, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association introduced the Joe Birch Media Award, presented to those who use the tools of communications to enlighten the community about MIFA's myriad of services. Birch was the first winner of the award. He has delivered MIFA Meals on Wheels (Route #12) once a week since 1997.
In this time, Joe has been blessed with countless friendships with MIFA clients. One client, Ms. Rosa Wright of 597 Mississippi Boulevard, was 105 years of age when she asked Joe and others to repair her dilapidated home. Birch prepared a news report about the "Matriarch of Mississippi Boulevard" who was radically independent and refused to move even in the face of drug dealers who pedaled illegal substances just a few feet from Ms. Wright's front door. The 2004 news report prompted responses from many kind souls and led to the complete renovation of Ms. Wright's residence by the good people of LeMoyne Owen College Community Development Corporation, the Home Depot and many others. At no cost to her, Ms. Wright enjoyed her refurbished home until the summer of 2007. She died December 7, 2007 at the age of 109.
The Memphis and Shelby County Optimist Respect for Law Committee named Joe Birch "Citizen of the Year" in 2007 for his Taking Back Our Neighborhoods reports and other community building efforts.
Joe has raised more than $100,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as he has participated in all eleven of the St. Jude Memphis Marathons or Half Marathons since the inaugural event in 2002. Joe has completed five 26.2 mile full marathons (2002, '04, '06, '08, '10) and six13.1 mile half marathons (2003, '05, '07, '09, ’11 & ‘12) and while slow to reach the finish line has completed each event and placed among the top fund raisers for St. Jude each year.
Birch is the Co-Founder and longtime Race Director of the Gibson Guitar/ Baldwin Piano 5K Run-Walk for St. Patrick Learning Center, Inc., a 501 © 3 non-profit agency that serves children and families in 38126, the city's poorest zip code. A crowd of 1,415 enjoyed the 2010 Gibson 5K which ends with a magnificent rooftop party at Downtown Memphis' Gibson Guitar Factory. You are cordially invited to join in the fun at the 18th annual Gibson 5K at 7 o'clock on Saturday night, June 14, 2014. Learn more at www.gibsonguitar5k.com.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Birch visited New York City to deliver the $527,000 WMC-TV collected to help the United Way of New York City and the agencies and people they serve.
The Memphis Chapter of UNICO, the Italian-American service organization, bestowed their community service award on Joe in 2004. Associated Catholic Charities honored Joe in 2002 with the Bishop Carroll T. Dozier Service Award, the agency's highest honor for community service.
Birch is deeply involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. His beloved father suffered from Alzheimer's for fourteen years until his death in 2002. Joe regularly serves as emcee of Alzheimer's Association events, including the annual Memory Walk. Birch was the honoree at the 2008 Alzheimer's Association of the Mid-South Gala.
Birch serves on the Board of Trustees of Christian Brothers University, his alma mater (1978). Joe and native Memphian Robyn Davis Birch (CBU 1977) were married in June 1983. They have been blessed with two sons. Joseph III, is an honors graduate of his parents’ alma mater and is now a third year law student at the Cecil C. Humphries School of Law at the University of Memphis. Matthew, a CBU senior, is fluent in Mandarin and spent the summer 2012 teaching English in Shenyang, China. Matthew plans a career after graduation that will put his gifts with foreign languages to good use. The Birch family resides in Hein Park in Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.