TV News Legend Monica Pearson Challenges Budding Journalists to ‘Get Outside Yourselves’ at Brenau Media Day

Mar 29, 2018
Kristen Bowman

Veteran television journalist Monica Kaufman Pearson, who made history as the first African-American and first woman to anchor a major 6 p.m. newscast, told a group of high school students considering careers in journalism that they will need to break out of their comfort zones and prepare diligently to work successfully in news media.

Addressing about 100 county high schoolers and Brenau students on Thursday, March 29, at Brenau University Media Day, Pearson highlighted her own experiences in the business and communication world, giving insight into what it takes to be successful in the field. Part of the insight and advice she imparted touched pointedly on today’s intensely polarized media environment.

“It is so important for you to be aware of your own biases,” she said. “You’ve got to get outside yourself and ask other people, ‘What would you ask? What am I missing here?’ … Remember, what is a terrorist to one group is a freedom fighter to another.”

Pearson, who retired in 2012 after 37 years as one of the best-known faces of WSB-TV, is known for bringing “coverage you can count on” into the homes of millions for decades.

She shared her insights and advice with the budding journalists Thursday in true reporter fashion: by asking questions.

She asked the students to define “news,” to tell her what it takes to be a journalist and why good journalism matters.

“What do you think the requirements are to be a reporter?” she asked. “Sometimes you can ask the most obvious question in the most obvious place and no one comes up with the answer. You have to have a college degree.

“In the old days, someone went into journalism because he or she was this energetic person who could run with the news. But now it really does require a degree.”

Pearson encouraged aspiring reporters to major in journalism or communications, but to also study a completely different field. She said minors in business, economics, international studies, languages and more give beat reporters an edge.

She asked the students to tell her the difference between radio, television and newspaper reporting. The answer, they learned from her, had more to do with length and quantity than coverage.

“Who gives you the most information? In reality, the newspaper gives you more news than anybody else, because there is no way you can sit down and read everything in the entire newspaper in an hour,” said the broadcast media icon, who got her start in print journalism. “If you want the most news and the most detailed news, you are going to have to pick up your newspaper.”