Emmy Winning TV Anchor Dhomonique Ricks Murphy On The Five Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A News Anchor
… You must possess an innate sense of curiosity. TV media loves enterprise stories. You must understand ‘enterprise’ storytelling if you want to be successful in this industry. Enterprise is something unique and fresh; it is something you dig up on your own, not a press release delivered to the assignment desk inbox. In order to find good stories, you have to always be looking for stories around you. Also listen up to when you hear people complaining (that’s a pro tip for you), I have found some of my best stories this way.
As a part of our series called “Five Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A News Anchor”, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dhomonique Ricks Murphy. Dhomonique is a 3x Emmy Award Winning TV Anchor and the #1 Go-To Industry Expert on Executive Presence, Storytelling and Getting Featured on TV. She has over 20 years of experience working as a TV talent and has interviewed and been endorsed by everyone from Billionaire Naveen Jain, to Bestselling Author Sharon Lechter to E! Founder Larry Namer. Dhomonique was also a 2020 National Salute to Excellence Award Winner (NABJ) and crowned Mrs. Virginia American, that same year.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! I know that you are very busy and we appreciate your time. Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small working-class family. My mother was a teacher and my dad was a high school administrator. As a child I always had a love for meeting people and telling their stories. That passion led to an opportunity to host a TV show on KARE 11, Minneapolis (NBC) at the age of 14. I held that position for four years until heading off to college at the University of Missouri (Go Tigers!)
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’d love to! I’ll take you back to age 13. I was a child who loved fashion and talking (lots and lots of talking!) and writing. One day my father came home from work with a brochure for a camp called the Urban Journalism Workshop at St. Thomas University in Minnesota (where I grew up). He said, “Dhomonique, I think you’d be great at this.’ I asked, ‘What is it?’ He said, “It’s a journalism workshop.” I told my father I was not interested in being a journalist but rather being a fashion designer or a super model. After a little bit of convincing, I went to my room filled out the application in five minutes and dropped the letter in the mail. Two weeks later I received a letter in the mail from the program. I’ll never forget how excited I was pulling that envelope out of the mailbox. I ran into my home, opened the envelope, and read the first sentence which said, “Dear Dhomonique, unfortunately you were not accepted into the Urban Journalism Workshop…” It hit me like a ton of bricks. “What do you mean I didn’t get in?” I thought. It was the first time in my life that I can recall feeling rejected. I went to my father and I said, “Dad, I didn’t get in.” He looked at me and he said something that was so profound. He said, “Did you try?” I looked at him sadly and shook my head, “No.” And I’ll never forget what he said after, he said, “How do you expect to achieve anything in life if you don’t apply yourself?” That lesson stuck with me for the rest of my life. One year later my father brought home the same brochure and said that the Director stopped by the school yet again and was looking for students to take part in the program. This time I applied myself. I spent two hours on the application, mailed it in, and two weeks later I got my acceptance letter. I remember calling my dad on day-one of the two-week program and saying, “This is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.” That was the start of my media and television career.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Yes! Getting Demoted in Front of My Entire Team. My goal with this article is to be fully transparent with everyone reading this because the reality is: in everyone’s career, there are ups and downs and my goal is to motivate you to keep going no matter what happens.
I was working in Cleveland, Ohio as a television Host on a 4 PM one-hour newscast. At the conclusion of one of my shows, and 11 days before my wedding, I finished by saying, “Thanks so much for watching, I’ll see you back here tomorrow.” The lights went down…I grabbed my phone and noticed there was a message from my Producer saying, “Meet me upstairs, now.” I remember swallowing hard and made my way up the stairs. In the building that I worked in, upstairs was where all of the managers and human resources were located. I reached the top of the stairs turned the corner and entered the conference room where my entire team was sitting. I was the last one in the door because I had just finished my show. Everyone was chatting and smiling, so I thought, “Oh! Phew… someone is announcing a retirement.” I’ll never forget the words that followed. My boss looked directly at me and he said, “That was your last show you are no longer the Host of [that show].” I sat there completely stunned and frozen. Everyone in the room gasped. It was the first time anyone was hearing this news including myself who was hearing it for the first time in front of my entire team. I was humiliated and mortified. My boss asked me, “Do you have any questions?” I asked him if I could meet with him in private. We proceeded into his office and I asked him $1 million question: “Do I still have a job?” He looked at me and said “Yes.” I looked back at him confused and I said “What is my job?” He looked back at me and said “You can come back here tomorrow and be a reporter (which was a demotion for me) or you can walk out the door and never come back either way it’s up to you.”
I will never forget that moment. I thanked him for his time and proceeded down the stairs holding back the tears. I got into my car and folded over my steering wheel bawling thinking to myself “What did I do? What did I do?” There was no clarity on why this decision was made. I called my husband and I could barely get the words out of my mouth and he said “Babe come home.” I got home that night and my husband told me something that was transformational. He said you now have two options: “You can do what everyone expects you to do which is to never show your face in that building again, or you can rise above it. But only you can make that decision I can’t do that for you.” I decided the next morning to go into the building scared out of my mind about what people would say. But I decided I was not going to be a victim but rather a victor and I was going to take on my new role with humility and grace because I truly believe in life there’s a lesson in everything if we are paying attention. The first day ended up being a success. I finished with the lead story on the main newscast, and overall, it was a pretty solid day. Day one turned into week one which turned into month one which turned into months two and then 3.
Did I love what I was doing? Not at all. But I knew there was a lesson in it. I remained positive because in life the one thing we have control over is our attitude and how we choose to feel and react. Three months in to this new role, I had an opportunity to report live at the Republican National Convention which was hosted in Cleveland. Myself along with an armed bodyguard were in the heart of the protests for continuous live coverage over several days. It was my coverage of that event which led to me winning my very first Emmy award, and it was that Emmy award that catapulted my career. That one Emmy led to two more (so, three total) in my career plus landing a main evening Anchor position at a number 1 station shortly after. I say that story to remind people that in life sometimes what we think is a negative outcome can turn out to be one of the best things that could ever happen to you.
Three years after this happened, I sent my former News Director a letter and I told him thank you for all that he had done because at the time I thought he was just trying to hurt me, but in reality, he saw how complacent I was and he was the push I needed to truly fly. So, it’s not about being a victim it’s about realizing the gift that was given to me in that moment.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting as a news presenter? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes, I had a booger fly out of my nose on live TV! I was working as a weekend news anchor in Lynchburg, VA. It was my first job out of college. There was a funny story (a kicker) that I was reading and I was struggling getting the words out. In an attempt to stop my laughing, I pinched my lips together, but still couldn’t stop laughing. The pressure catapulted a massive booger out of my nose which landed on the anchor desk on live TV. My sports director started screaming “Oh my gosh! Ugh!” Which didn’t help the situation — ha-ha! I can laugh about it now (and thankfully this was before YouTube Bloopers became a thing — so only a few people have the clip, thankfully!) The lesson learned was to keep going. Unexpected things are always going to happen, especially on live TV. Being able to laugh at yourself is a super power and it endears people to you.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am a serial entrepreneur in the media space and a top booked speaker. I travel all over the nation speaking on some of the biggest stages and I also am the president of TheRightMethod.com (a top video production, strategic storytelling, messaging and public relations company), ExecutivePresenceConsultingGroup.com (The Top Executive Presence Development Company in America — We help you look amazing, sound great, command a room and get results), and MediaMasteryNow.com (America’s premiere Media Training Agency where my team and I will teach you how to get featured on TV). I also take on a very select number of clients a year who want TV careers and help them achieve just that (either as a talent or as a subject matter expert/contributor). You can learn about all my brands easily by visiting www.Dhomonique.com
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Yes. Never give up. There is no one-size-fits-all method to success. Everyone carves their own path. Just remember to align with people who have done what you are looking to do; learn from them and keep your eye on the ball.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father started my media career (story listed above). Linda McDonnell and Dave Nimmer (Urban Journalism Workshop) — helped me move to the next level as they mentored me from age 14 well into my 20s. I would be remiss if I also didn’t spotlight three other people.
- Stacey Woelfel (professor at Mizzou and my first news director at KOMU in Columbia, MO). Stacey was not only a mentor but a friend and I still reach out to him to this day even though he is retired!
- Second — News Director Bill Foy, WSET-TV. Bill was also just the salt of the earth like Stacey. Both of them were on a mission to help me achieve my dream of being a News Anchor. Once a week Bill and I would have coffee and he would critique all of my video tapes so I could grow at rapid speed. Stacey used to work with my not only on speaking, but delivery and vocal tonality. These two have been game changes in my TV career.
- I also have to thank my New Director who shook things up in Cleveland because if it wasn’t for him, I would most likely still be there, complacent, and not reaching my full potential.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Three things: 1. Self-care is a MUST. If you don’t make time for yourself, you will burn out very quickly 2. Surround yourself with supportive people who understand the pressures and time commitments that come along with being a TV news anchor. You most likely will work every holiday, every birthday and very long hours that start early in the morning or go late into the evening, 3. LOVE what you do. Ask youself, could I see myself doing this in 10 years? If the answer is yes — you are in the right industry.
Thank you so much for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A News Anchor”. If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- You must have a full understanding of the industry and how it works. TV News is not a 9–5 job for most talent in the industry. The hours are long and are super early or super late. When you begin your career and for a good majority of it until you have seniority, you will work every holiday. Starting pay can be very low and if you are looking to ‘move up the ladder’ you may find yourself fully relocating to a different location every 2–3 years. When you do relocate, it is often the location your agent gets you into so it may not always be your dream city or locality. I always tell new talent to grab a piece of paper and write down the following 7 things: “Location, Title, Hours, Quality of Life, Market Size, Station Ranking (#1 station vs #4 station), Money” — I then have them rank them 1–7 (1, most important). This will help anybody make more strategic choices when it comes to selecting what job is the best job for them. For example, if your number 1 driving force is money, you might be willing to take a job in a smaller market that pays more as an evening anchor than going to a top 10 market as a weekend morning anchor that may pay you significantly less.
- You must possess an innate sense of curiosity. TV media loves enterprise stories. You must understand ‘enterprise’ storytelling if you want to be successful in this industry. Enterprise is something unique and fresh; it is something you dig up on your own, not a press release delivered to the assignment desk inbox. In order to find good stories, you have to always be looking for stories around you. Also listen up to when you hear people complaining (that’s a pro tip for you), I have found some of my best stories this way.
- You must be confident and comfortable. You will be LIVE all the time. If you are not comfortable talking on live TV with lots of distractions happening (crowds, people taking pictures, loud background noise, etc.) then this is a skillset that needs to be mastered. Can cannot be easily distracted and you have to be able to roll with the punches if something goes wrong (such as your teleprompter going out, or a breaking news story that gets added in)
- You must be able to handle extreme pressure and deadlines. Highlight this one! TV News is all about “making slot” that means you do not miss deadlines. TV news is a very high stress industry and you have to learn to manage your time very, very effectively. You also have to learn how to work and write in any conditions. You may be working out of a live truck for a day, you may not get lunch, you may be asked to produce multiple stories or have multiple live hits. You just have to be flexible and roll with the punches.
- You must be able to separate work from personal life. TV News can get heavy sometimes, emotionally. Local news covers a lot of crime, and loss, and many trigger points that can affect you. You have to learn to separate news time from personal time if you want to be an excellent and unbiased journalist.
According to this Gallup poll, only 36% of Americans trust the mass media. This is disheartening. As an insider, are there a few things that news anchors can do to increase the levels of trust? Can you give some examples?
Transparency. If you have permission to release something the public is interested in (permission by your News Director and Law Enforcement, for example), release it. Also, be approachable. Some News Anchor are not community-centered. They are not interested in community events, rather being a ‘face.’ Here’s how you change this. It’s called the KNOW, LIKE, TRUST factor. If you want people to trust you, you have to be accessible. Once people get to know you, they will start to like you and eventually trust you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t chase money, chase excellence.” — this is a quote by my mentor Jeff Hoffman (Co-Founder Priceline.com). People in life are too focused on money. If you start to focus on excellence in every aspect of your life, you will be rich (not only from a financial standpoint, but mentally and emotionally as well)
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be focused on self-belief. The number one thing that stops people from being successful is THEM. We mask it by pointing the finger toward excuses (I don’t have the money, the time, the connections, the look, the voice, the education, etc.) yet that is a form of playing small. When people play small it is a way for them to not take accountability because they are deflecting imposer syndrome toward something else. It is also how people justify things that don’t go their way. “See, I knew it would happen for me.” My movement would be to make people understand and realize how incredibly worthy and capable they are.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Richard Branson is on the top of my list. Richard — let’s make this happen! We’ve got several mutual friends! I am so intrigued by people who have a business-mindset. The fact that he was able to create a movement and move the world forward is so incredible to me. I would love to just sit down with him for 15 minutes (or longer) and discuss.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Find me at www.Dhomonique.com (you’ll find links to all my companies there and you’ll be able to access my trainings and free resources)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Emmy Winning TV Anchor Dhomonique Ricks Murphy On The Five Things You Need To Create A Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.