News anchor, Vanessa Herring, reached out to me via twitter with a surprising message that said something like “good to see you again” or something like that.
It made me think “again?” I couldn’t remember where I knew her from. Sad thing is my memory is the ABSOLUTE WORST and it never dawned on me that Vanessa knew me from my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
I embraced her sentiment, naturally but curiosity set in and I was instantly intrigued.
An avid WBAL-TV watcher myself, I was excited to see my new Twitter buddy on the evening news, doing a story on something that happened here in Baltimore.
It was cold out. I tweeted her. She tweeted me back. A few emoji’s and “lol’s” later, we had a sisterhood.
So obviously, I asked her for an interview. Why not? I mean, she’s from my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA! Duh!!!
If you’re ever up late night, watching the news (preferably on WBAL-TV), you’ll find Vanessa delivering the hard stories. Check her out!
Here is Vanessa’s story:
What is your occupation?
I’m a freelance reporter in Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C.
How did you get started in your career?
I got started more than a decade ago, and it’s so hard to believe it has been that long! I went to an audition to co-host the premiere season of the McDonald’s Steelers KidZONE, and I got the gig! I survived two rounds of cuts, and went on to host the show for 4 amazing years. I even got to be one of the first reporters to interview Ben Roethlisberger after his name was called at the 2004 NFL Draft in New York City.
What do you like/love most about your career?
I love getting to meet new people and try new things! The coolest part of this job is having a front row seat at events I may never have been invited to, or had an interest in going to. It’s a privilege to be able to share stories. I also like that every day is different, especially when it’s a tough, or bad day. The slate is wiped clean, and you get to start fresh all over again.
Live in the studio at WUSA 9.
What is it about this industry that struck your interest?
The ability to learn something new every day, connect with people, and share information.
What are the hardest stories to report?
Any tragedy—deadly fires, murders, accidents. Knocking on someone’s door after they’ve lost a loved one is the hardest part of this job.
Is there division in the news/media industry?
I don’t think so many of the reporters and anchors get along even though we compete with each other. At the end of the day it’s about serving the viewers and making sure they have the information they need.
Are your male co-anchors supportive?
Yes! I don’t work very closely with all the anchors, though. The photographer staffs at many news stations are dominated by men, and reporters and photographers work very closely together. All of them have been supportive, especially when you’re new in town. Photographers usually know the ins and outs of the city, major players, and the good places to eat when you’re stuck on a live shot J
Are other African American anchors supportive?
I have found other African American anchors and reporters are pretty supportive. In my first market I was one of two African American people in the entire building! At my second job there was a handful of African American reporters and anchors. I connected with many of them, and we were able to support each other—even if it was just a smile, and hello on a hectic day.
In action at the Hearst Television D.C. Bureau.
Who is your mentor?
I have a few mentors that I check in with from time to time. They are producers, reporters, and anchors and they’re all able to offer great advice! I also have a couple young reporters I mentor. I once was told, as you climb the career ladder, don’t forget to reach back and help someone. I try to pass along the good advice, and things I wish I knew when I was just starting out!
What was the best career advice you ever received?
Get your foot in the door, and once it’s there, force the rest of your body in!
There are so many reporters and anchors I admire and respect! I adore Robin Meade, Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, and Soledad O’Brien. I also admire many of the journalists I work side by side with in Baltimore and D.C.
We are our worst critics. What do you NOT like most about what you do?
There’s always something! I’ll watch my story the next day and think, “I should have used a different sound bite,” or, “I should have used a more descriptive word,” or, “I said that word funny.” I try not to beat myself up too much, but I’ve found being honest with yourself about the quality of your work will help you improve.
Are you the type that must do more than one take?
I hate doing more than one take! I always feel like the first take is the most natural.
When you’re on location, what don’t the viewers see?
Oh my gosh, there’s so much that you don’t see! Sometimes there’s a pretty elaborate lighting situation going on. Photographers are great at making it look like we look that awesome all the time, but they really make the magic happen! If it’s breaking news I may be on the phone with a producer, or source, right before I go on air. I have literally hung up the phone and started reporting right after. There’s the hour lull between shows, where you just kind of hang out in the truck with your photographer—and if you’re working on a developing story that time gives you the opportunity to make changes or gather new information.
The biggest lesson you’ve learned as an anchor is? (Ex: not cussing when you’re mic’d up)
Definitely don’t say anything you don’t want heard with a microphone on—ever!! Fortunately, I haven’t made that mistake. Always show up to work ready for air because the day you come in with your hair looking a mess and no make up on will be the day you’re sent out immediately! Always double check pronunciations of new places—viewers do not like when you mess up the name of their town! Be willing to take criticism from your bosses, mentors, and even viewers. I’ve gotten nasty comments from viewers, and it’s easy to get upset and lash back. I usually thank them for even taking the time to watch and send me their thoughts, and use the constructive part of their complaint to improve my performance.
Can anyone be a news anchor? What should you possess in order to do this type of work?
Yes! You’ve got to have thick skin, curiosity, and be able to work well under tight deadlines.
What’s the biggest misconception about what you do and how do you respond to it?
That it’s “easy.” It’s certainly not manual labor, but it’s not easy. For example, I’ve had days where I was reporting live at noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m., and in between all that I had to find time to interview people, write a story, lay down an audio track, and engage and share information with viewers on social media. That makes for a very busy day! I also hate when people ask if someone else writes my story for me… NO!!!
What are some things we don’t know about you? (name 3 things)
I love history! I had a history minor in college, and I enjoy learning about historical figures, places and events. I am a makeup JUNKIE! I have so many products it’s sort of embarrassing! If I wasn’t a reporter, I’d probably be a makeup artist. I really enjoy arts and crafts and DIY projects and I’m always trying to find little things to create.
How do you unwind?
Relaxing at home with my boyfriend. We’ll watch a movie on Netflix, make dinner, or he’ll make cocktails (he’s like a bartender!). I also like to grab some Starbucks (I’m obsessed!) and go shopping.
The happiest or most proud moment of your careers was…..
Any time I can help someone. I’ve done a few stories that have inspired people to get behind a cause, or shown people just how much support they have in the community. Those are the best stories, and when I feel like I’m really able to make a difference through my work.
The most embarrassing moment/interview you had was…..
So one time when I was working in Erie, Pa I was anchoring the noon show, and the prompter switched modes. It went from showing words to showing video. So, when we got into a soundbite I thought I had time to fix it. The button was under the desk, and just as I crawled under to press it…the director came back to me! I had to crawl out from under the desk AND explain why I was under there! Talk about embarrassing!!
If you weren’t a news anchor, what would you be doing?
I’d probably have a creative career! I’d love to be a makeup artist or interior designer.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you imagined.” I believe that you can’t be afraid to go after what you want. You’re never going to accomplish what you’ve dreamed of if you’re afraid to take the first step!
How can people reach out to you?
my blog: www.vanessaherring.wordpress.com
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