Who Influenced Me

I don’t remember the exact moment when I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but I always loved three things: writing, reading and watching news. I knew who my local news anchors were by name when I was in the fourth grade. I listened to them hype UNLV’s Running Rebels during their heyday, I watched the images of the PEPCON blast after feeling my house rattle when I was home from school in the fifth grade, and I became enthralled with the electric energy of election night when Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992. I was a freshman in high school.

But, it was the men behind the network news desk who really convinced me I wanted to be in broadcast news. The Walter Cronkites of the media world. The Peter Jennings and the Tom Brokaws of my time. They just had this air about them when they delivered the nightly news. I wanted to be them. I wanted to work for them. I dreamt of working aside them. I wanted to dig and investigate and write my own content. I wanted to be in front of the camera.

My first attempt at having any journalistic skill began with Yearbook in high school. I loved it! I am someone who gets excited about the minute details, so in those days, when we actually drew our layouts on grid paper and used pencil to measure picas (a measuring unit), well, this was right up my alley. By the time I was a junior in high school we advanced to computers and used software to design our page layouts. That wasn’t as much fun, but it still was exciting and new and much, much easier. At this point, I thought I might go into print journalism. But, TV had me and by the time I went to college orientation, I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting.

I had great mentors and professors. We listened to radio recordings of Edward R. Murrow reporting from the front lines of World War II, we watched the movies Broadcast News and All The President’s Men and learned the ins and outs of the industry. Our first amendment rights, media ethics and technology were all part of the curriculum. I never wavered. This is what I wanted to do.

In college, I routinely watched Dateline, 20/20, the Evening News with Dan Rather and local news. I inspired to be all these journalists who made it to primetime. But, I learned something else about myself. I no longer wanted to be in front of the camera, I wanted to control it all from behind the scenes. The producer in me was born. I was, after all, a writer. I interned in Reno and then landed a producing career at the local CBS affiliate in Las Vegas. I was proud of myself. I was 22 and working in a bigger market. I was equally excited to work along side the very people I watched deliver the news when I was a child. They were still on the air and I was awe struck. One of the main news anchors became my mentor and friend. He always worked with me, taught me, talked a story over with me and showed me a better way to tell a story. Not all news anchors take the time to teach young journalists, but he did and I value his mentorship today.

News really isn’t as glamorous as it appears to be, but nevertheless, I loved what I did. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It was thrilling and adrenaline pumping when breaking news happened and I pulled it off. It was also heartbreaking to cover so many horrific stories that were related to abuse and death, especially when they involved children. And sometimes, it was draining.

After six exhilarating and often frustrating years, something else heartbreaking happened. My spark fizzled. My drive was going south. I was bitter, and I didn’t love news anymore. It was a changing industry, and I didn’t like it. The lines between entertainment and real news were being blurred, technology was forcing wrong information to be reported, all for the sake of stations being the first to report it. People were in it for the wrong reasons. And, I began to wonder what happened to the Cronkites and the Murrows who delivered the news to you straight, the news men who read from a piece of paper without saying, “We’re first at the scene,” the true journalists who spent hours researching, investigating, digging and interviewing to tell one single but worthwhile story that meant something to somebody. My heroes were fading, and as all these aging broadcasters retired or died, I mourned the passing of real journalism.

Some of my closest friends still work in news, and one of them, whom I have the utmost respect for, is so good at what she does she produces for CNN. She inspires me because she’s in it for the right reasons. She busts her butt to be honest and true. My husband is a multiple award-winning photojournalist, and I’m so ridiculously proud of his work. I still respect the news media and its intentions, despite its bumpy decline. I believe in it enough to still read the news every single morning. I just wonder who out there now has the journalistic integrity, know-how and guts to influence a young teenage girl who dreams of being the next Walter Cronkite.

By the way, whenever I go back to my yearbooks and revisit the articles I wrote, I wince. I was a terrible writer.

“And that’s the way it is.” ~Walter Cronkite