How this news reporter is using her platform to facilitate change and be the voice of her community
Being Mary Jane may be a scripted story but what she represents is not: Troy Washington from CBS news affiliate in Memphis Q&A
As important as the news is, I don't watch it. To be honest it makes me sad and I'm tired of seeing biased opinions about black and/or Latino people on there. I consider FOX13 to be the devil and I'm more keen to go over to Shaun King's IG to see what's current in events. There is just something familiar and relatable to someone who you can relate to. The only person who could be more relatable would be a woman. A woman like Troy Washington; news anchor and reporter for CBS news. Unfortunately, she does not report for Tampa, FL but the fact that she is out there, being relatable for someone else is amazing. Check out our interview with Troy below where she talks about being a black woman in the news industry, her platform as a journalist, advice to women, and more:
What is it like to be a TV reporter when you are not on the screen? What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot of behind the scenes that goes on. That’s what takes up most of my day…being on camera is the smallest portion. People think that these stories fall into our lap, that is not the case. A lot of the times we have to go and get them so I have to always be available. You have to set up your stories, interview the people in them, write your story and then edit and present it. The news director decides which stories will get covered and when. Then you have to put the stories on the web, post them on social media, etc. After approval, you track it, and then you perform live. We do all of this every single day, presenting true stories. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to you and not everyone is happy to see you. You have to know how to deal with everyone’s attitudes. You also have to be available all the time to answer the calls of people who want you to share their story. That is just the reporting part of it. As a fill in TV anchor, I am always on call. I will get called at 2 AM from the producer because I have to come in for that morning's show. Basically, you have to be versatile, prepared, and ready to tackle anything at anytime.
As a minority news reporter, why do you feel being in this position is so important? Memphis is a minority driven community and I believe that having that representation is important. What I symbolize is important. No one in my family saw this happening for me, because it would be tough and no one in our family ever ventured into the industry. My grandma used to tell me to get my head out the clouds. Now they joke that I always wanted to be on TV and now I am. I want minority women in my area to see that this is possible. In this day and age you have to see it to believe it. That's the impact I am having for the young girls in this community. I am a representation of them and what can happen if they believe in themselves. Additionally, I am the voice of the single mothers, minorities, and poverty stricken families whose voices are not being heard. Coming from a single parent household I grew up not having a lot. I grew up watching people take advantage of my mother because she struggled. I watched her feel helpless because she didn't have anyone advocating for her. I use my platform to aspire and motivate these people too. To let them know that no one will take advantage on my watch.
Why do you think people have such a negative perception of the media? I think people don't like the news because it really does not mirror what our reality is. I will be honest with you, not every journalist cares if they are covering a story from an honest angle. Anytime that you are in such a position of power you are supposed to influence people in a positive way and advocate change. Not everyone does that, some people chase the story and don't take the time to understand the person behind the story. However, you cannot group all of us in a category based on the actions of a few. I always say if you meet me and let me show you different your perspective on the news will change.
As a news anchor and reporter do you feel your position holds a certain responsibility? Yes. It is my responsibility to cause social awareness and highlight injustices. You cannot be silent about those things. If you are then you missed the mark on the point of journalism. There are a lot of people that want to become news anchors, reporter, etc. for the glam. They are more worried about how they look on t.v. than the merit of their stories. Those are the bad apples but they don't define everyone in this industry. If you look at how journalism has changed the world than you can understand how important it is to shed light on untold stories and give everyone a voice. Look at Ida B Wells, she was the only one who wrote about lynching and the fight for civil rights. In her time these stories were one-sided and the media tried to portray what was going on as sporting events. That is what being a news reporter is all about. To be the voice of the people and of service to them.
Have you ever been in a situation where your morals, ideas, etc. didn’t align with the news stations? How did you handle it? Sometimes my station wants me to cover horrible crimes like murder, theft, etc. but I am passionate about stories that advocate for the people. I will cover other stories but they know my focus is on the people because I make sure my voice is heard. I decided early in my career that this industry would not change who I am. Not every story that I pitch gets aired but I am always sure to make my voice heard if I don't stand behind something. That is okay. I will not compromise who I am for my career. My news director has very different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be covered. For the longest I thought he didn’t like what I liked because my stories were always met with a "no". Now we are on common ground, he embraces my strengths. He knows that I will not back down and that I perform better when I am passionate about the story I cover. It is all about perspective and attitude. You can compromise with people and they will realize that if it's something you love, you'll put your all into it.
Was it hard to break into the news industry? I graduated with honors from Prairie View A&M University. I was also the Editor for our schools newspaper and completed two internships prior to graduation. I still couldn't find a job in the industry when I graduated. I applied for over 300+ jobs out of college trying to get my foot in the door. I had to change my strategy so I started applying for behind the scene jobs. I never produced a day in my life but I applied for a producer job. When I got a job as a producer I stayed late everyday and until I got the hang of it. To apply for a news reporter position you have to complete on camera audition tapes that serve as your "resume". Every day I showed my news director at the time my progress. I was told by her "no" so many times I lost count. An executive producer once told me that maybe I should try something different. However, I did not let that stop me. It took someone calling in sick at the last minute for her to finally give me my shot. Once I got in, the only way was up so I put in the work to get there and I am still working.
What advice would you give to women who want to become a news anchor and/or reporter? I can only tell you what I did to achieve my dreams. However, everything that I did might not work for you. My advice is to trust in God, work hard, and don't take "no" as a final answer. The word "no" to me means "not right now". I don’t even hear the word "no" anymore I've been told it so many times. People will not always see your vision, sometimes you have to keep bringing it to their attention. Just keep faith, keep at it, and don't give up. Also, when everything starts falling into place for you don’t forget to help the girl behind you that still needs help. Steer them in the direction that could’ve helped you. Not everyone knows how to break in to an industry and if you can help someone avoid the mistakes you made than why not. It’s all about the legacy you create, it’s not about you. To give is to gain.
How do you handle the negative criticism that comes with being in the public eye? Stay positive. People will always say mean and nasty things for no reason but don't let their behavior change who you are. You will be surprised how quiet people get when they are being really ugly to you and you are nice back to them. I either overlook negative people or I choose to still pour into them in a positive manner. You just have to be really confident in you and remember that they are probably not happy with themselves. Anyone who takes the time to tell you about you, isn’t happy with themselves. You're not the issue, they are.