WPIX News Anchor Vanessa Freeman On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A News Anchor
… My biggest tip to avoid burnout in this industry is to avoid overscheduling and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Going back to things I wish someone told me, saying “no” when you’re starting out is seen as the ultimate career breaker. But the truth is, as you grow and elevate in your stature and tenure, you have to learn when you’re done paying your dues. It’s a tough one to gauge, but you have to view yourself as an equal participant in the news gathering process. Don’t shy away from talking through solutions that are more feasible (and oftentimes, much more sensible) and don’t involve you being overworked, simply because you are too afraid to be seen as difficult. Be a team player, but do know your worth and when you’re being misused instead of properly utilized.
As a part of our series how to create a success career as a TV anchor, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Freeman. Vanessa is currently a News Anchor on WPIX in New York City. Prior to joining the PIX team, she was a national host and news anchor for Cheddar News and Cheddar Business. Vanessa is also a former anchor on News 12 Networks, seen throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Vanessa’s ability to cover wide-ranging topics from politics to entertainment is demonstrated by work on networks like MSN, AOL, and CNN. Her work can be found across broadcast, print and digital media. Vanessa is also the founder of 1 Woman 4 All, Inc., a New Jersey based, 501 ©(3) non-profit, focused on women’s empowerment.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Vanessa! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Baltimore, MD with Liberian (West African) parents. Being first generation, hard work, determination and perseverance were key tenants in our household. They were demonstrated by my parents who came to this country for an education, racking up multiple advanced degrees between the two of them. They encouraged my little sister and I to strive to be our best and persevere through any challenge. Dr. Ben Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands” was part of our required summer reading, EVERY year! I grew up with lots of love, amazing food, and the best house parties!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I was painfully shy. I was an extrovert and super talkative at home with my family, but very quiet when I was out with my peers in social situations. At home, I would run around with my hair brush, interviewing my Mom and aunts while my Dad recorded on his camcorder. In spite of my shy tendencies, I loved the arts, entertainment, and television. I was enamored by those story-tellers who could capture your imagination with their presentation.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story in my career would have to be my interview with a Holocaust survivor. I was a Production Assistant at NBC News in Washington, D.C and we were one of the first network teams to be introduced to multimedia journalism. I was quickly trained to shoot, edit and write our own stories. It was nerve-racking having that powerful of an interview be my first story to debut on the Night News website, but I did it! I was even more proud of the end product, because I was responsible for the entire piece, end-to-end.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Starting out in this field as a reporter, especially a multimedia journalist, responsible for shooting, editing and writing everything, you learn to improvise. I’ve had some crazy moments where mics will cut out, batteries will die and you just have to make it work. I remember doing an entire interview, when mid-way through, the microphone died and all I picked up was ambient sound. I was mortified, but I had to ask the person to bear with me while I troubleshooted. Luckily, I discovered the issue in time –I eventually found the hand-held microphone and made it work.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I recently launched my non-profit, 1 Woman 4 All, Inc., which is a 501(c)(3) geared towards women’s empowerment. Our core mission is to improve the lives of women and girls, by supporting, enriching, and connecting them with the resources they need to thrive and present their best selves. Our “Panty Power” campaign is our trademark initiative which raises awareness about the need for women’s underwear donation. We also raise funds for career and social counseling as well as mentorship programs for women and girls. Head to 1woman4all.org to learn more and join the movement!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity is incredibly important in the field of TV and entertainment, especially news. As on-air talent, we not only convey and present the important stories of the day, but we’re also responsible for editorial decisions that can directly affect the public’s perception. We must use our own cultural intelligence to enhance and inform these stories. When we have a broad and diverse pool of talent both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, we can best serve the many cultures and ethnicities we broadcast to everyday. It’s also very important to use that same cultural intelligence to lend relevant perspectives to the multitude of social issues we are tackling daily. It’s these diverse perspectives that can push conversations forward and open the minds of people who don’t have that breadth of exposure in their lives. Going back to my fascination with TV as a child and the magic of having the world in that box — it was seeing people that looked like me; seeing Oprah on network television let me know that I too could hold that space. Representation shapes generations. TV and entertainment molds and shapes our culture, so we have a responsibility to accurately depict the world around us.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Starting out, I wish someone told me that it’s ok to be yourself! In the early 2000’s, TV news was a little more reserved. Now, there is so much value in being able to show your personality as you tell stories.
- I wish someone would’ve told me that covering hard news isn’t the only way to succeed in TV. Starting off at a huge news network, you get the impression that the only way you can become a successful network talent is if you’re covering politics or crime, but there is so much more to TV and there’s an array of paths you can take to become successful.
- In general, my mantra as I navigate new opportunities is to fail fast. I’ve heard this a number of times, but it really is a sage piece of advice. You think about a toddler learning to crawl and then walk — the inevitability that they will stumble and fall is 100%, and it’s a necessary part of the process. Through those stumbles and bumps they eventually learn to walk. Those falls are integral to the process, teaching them what to look out for and how to properly maneuver on their feet. Failure will always be part of a well explored journey. It fortifies you and in many ways it helps to refine your discovery into what your real purpose is. Just Do It.
- My biggest tip to avoid burnout in this industry is to avoid overscheduling and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Going back to things I wish someone told me, saying “no” when you’re starting out is seen as the ultimate career breaker. But the truth is, as you grow and elevate in your stature and tenure, you have to learn when you’re done paying your dues. It’s a tough one to gauge, but you have to view yourself as an equal participant in the news gathering process. Don’t shy away from talking through solutions that are more feasible (and oftentimes, much more sensible) and don’t involve you being overworked, simply because you are too afraid to be seen as difficult. Be a team player, but do know your worth and when you’re being misused instead of properly utilized.
- My best advice for any one pursuing a career in a competitive field is to run your own race. There is nothing wrong with observing those in positions you aspire to be in to gain a better understanding of what’s required. However, it’s futile to let it consume you to the point of exhausting your energy and time trying to duplicate what they’re doing, or worse, trying to sabotage them. They are already doing it! You have to take your unique skills and talents and make your own mark in whatever you are trying to do. What is meant for you, is for you. It can’t be stolen or derailed by anyone. Just run your best race and treat people well along the way.
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. 🙂
Crowdfunding has really shown us the power of the collective. It’s something we so often take for granted, but there is immense power in a large body of the population pushing towards a goal and supporting it in an actionable way. I think it would be amazing if every person who has the ability to part with $1 a month, took that dollar and put it into a specific charity. It would rotate every month from clean water, to hunger eradication, purchasing clothing, etc. Could you imagine the change we could create, monthly?
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My teacher, Mrs. Briggs was one of the first people who saw the spark in me before I realized it in myself. I auditioned and got cast as a Ronnet in “Little Shop of Horrors” my freshman year of high school and she would pour words of encouragement into me, pushing me to stand out and not to retreat as I often wanted to do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life quote comes from Nelson Mandela. “Be the change you want to see.”
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. 🙂
I would love to sit down and have a private dinner with Oprah! I’m sure you’ve heard that a couple times. I’ve always been fascinated by her path and life and how they revealed themselves in such a fated and predestined way. Even if you believe we are all predestined to make every choice we’ve made and are going to make, we don’t often see clear signs that we are going in the right direction. Her experiences seem to have an interesting thread of serendipity that runs through. She represents everything I’d love to do professionally; acting, owning multiple businesses, philanthropy and having agency in so many different aspects of the entertainment industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow my TV personality pages at @VanessaFreeTV on Instagram and Twitter, and Facebook at @OfficialVanessaFreeman. You can learn more about my non-profit, 1 Woman 4 All, Inc. at 1Woman4All.org and @1woman4all on Instagram.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
WPIX News Anchor Vanessa Freeman On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A News… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.