An Award-Winning Journalist Offers Advice for Aspiring Reporters

Skye interviews Atlanta-based journalist Monica Pearson at the Fall National College Media Convention in Georgia. 

On October 31, I spoke with former news anchor Monica Pearson, who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Pearson’s career in journalism spans 50 years. I met her when she was advising students at the Fall National College Media Convention

Pearson started her career in journalism by writing for her high school newspaper in Kentucky. She went on to write for The Louisville Times. In 1969, in what she called a “twist of fate,” she became a news anchor and reporter for WHAS-TV, which is also based in Louisville. 

Pearson moved to Atlanta in 1975. There, she became the first woman and first African American to anchor the evening news at WSB-TV, an ABC affiliate in Atlanta. Pearson held this role for 37 years, becoming well-known in the media industry.

Since 2012, Pearson has hosted a weekly talk and music show on KISS 104.1 FM, a commercial radio station, in addition to other hosting duties. She has won more than 30 awards for her reporting. Here are highlights from our conversation, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:    

What is your advice for young people who would like to write for their school or local paper?

Interview people. Do it for yourself. I would never meet someone without asking them who they are, what they love, what they do. Take the information you got, and write it up as a story. I would say for young people who are interested in doing what I do, interview as many people as you can. Do research on the person.

What advice do you have for students who want to enter journalism after college?

In order to be the best you can be, you have to practice. Don’t be afraid to go into a really small market. The reason you want to go into a small market is because there you can make mistakes, and you won’t lose your job for them. That’s where you learn. You build your skills as a researcher, as an interviewer, and as a writer. You want to learn to be a good storyteller.

Do you have any tips from your years as a journalist? How could they be applied?

There are always two sides and sometimes three sides to every story. When you look at a story, you have to look at it from more than one view. That’s why it’s important to not only do your research, but also talk to people who are affected by the story.

Photo courtesy of the author