Welcome to our SPOTLIGHT feature, where we highlight a journalist and ProfNet user to share their personal story and insight with you. This SPOTLIGHT belongs to Cheryl Simone, a news anchor and reporter at ALL News 99.1 WNEW (CBS Radio).
We hope you find SPOTLIGHT both enjoyable and informative.
Please feel free to leave a comment after the blog entry.
Why did you decide to become a journalist? Was it something you knew you wanted to do or did it happen by chance?
When I was in high school, my dream was actually to someday be on Broadway. I was very involved in musical theater. Everyone expected me to do something with my “voice”, but it took some time to arrive at broadcast journalism. I studied marketing and spent some time in retail management for a major department store. One day, I woke up and had that conversation in the mirror. “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” I knew it wasn’t retail. That’s when I made a decision to enroll in a broadcasting program. It’s hard to believe that was over 20 years ago.
What was your first job as a journalist?
My first radio job was in music. At a country station in Key Largo, Florida. I made a 75 mile drive to get there because I was ready to do whatever I had to, to get started in this industry. Yet, even during my time in broadcast school, it was obvious I had a natural ability in the news arena. It was barely 6 months into the music job when a position came up at another station to do morning news for a talk show in South Florida. It was like finding a shoe that fits perfectly. I certainly jumped into the action. The first major story I was responsible for was Hurricane Andrew, which tore through South Florida in 1992. That experience taught me the power of broadcast to reach people and the responsibilities we have as broadcast journalists to connect people to information they need. That mission stays the same, whether we’re looking at times of chaos or times of calm.
What types of stories do you usually cover at All News 99.1 WNEW?
In my experience, CBS is truly the last broadcast company with care and concern for the local markets. All News 99.1 WNEW is a local station. We cover everything that impacts the communities of DC, Maryland and Virginia. We connect with our listeners because we live where they do. We focus on the issues that make a difference in all of our day-to-day experiences. How does it impact you financially? What are the transit or traffic issues - - will it be hard to get around today? How is local and state government working for you or against you? How does it affect your family, your kids, your work, your schools, your health? We cover the tragedies, the crime and the natural disaster and we stay to cover the triumph of the human spirit in the aftermath. We cover tech news and security. We talk about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And, of course, we want to entertain you! Tell you about great events and fundraisers, places to check out, food to eat, what’s happening in local music and local celebrity.
What's the best part about being a broadcast journalist?
I have always seen myself as a public servant. The best part of my work is connecting people with information they need, even if they didn’t know they needed it. Telling stories that sometimes go untold is very important to me. I always make it a point to reach out to communities that are sometimes underserved when it comes to attention and recognition.
Radio is so immediate. When you’re doing news 24/7, you do it fast and you do it accurately. It’s always a very exciting environment to be in.
What suggestions do you have for public relations professionals or anyone who wants to pitch you a story?
I am always interested in any story with a local focus - - so anything that is based in Maryland, Virginia or DC will definitely get a look. Anything interesting or unique, from program to product, that can impact the everyday listener will be considered.
What should they always do and never do?
We were just having a conversation about this in the newsroom today. We received three press releases with inaccurate dates on them. So accuracy is always important. It’s always helpful when the press release or email gets to the point and is very clear on why the story matters. And please, make that contact information clear and easy to find. The fewer hoops we have to jump through on deadline, the better!
How can someone in public relations develop a relationship with you?
I have had great relationships with PR groups throughout my career. Regular contact is great. A PR person who takes the time to understand the stories we do regularly won’t have to blanket us with every release they write. They’ll know what we need. Plus, it’s always helpful when the PR group can easily connect you with a source. Sometimes we’re under deadline or have limited time to get something done. Radio is different. We don’t need an hour interview like print or TV. Very often what we need is the release and a 5 minute interview to get some great sound to use. The best people I’ve worked with have understood all of these things.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
The biggest challenge is always balancing work and family life. I have to be reminded to “turn it off” sometimes. I have gotten better with that over time. The demands of broadcast journalism can be very different from that of other jobs. We are very often running towards the danger when others are running away.
It has also been a personal challenge to use my work to give a mouthpiece to the Latino community no matter where I am. We are a community that sometimes gets overlooked unless it’s time to cover immigration or crime issues. There are a lot of wonderful things going on - - all we have to do is look a little harder.
Do you have a most memorable moment in your career so far?
There have been personal milestones that are wonderful to remember. Returning to my hometown to work at 1010 WINS was one. Yet, the memorable moments have been the times when the newsroom’s connection to the community was so strong, you could just feel it. Starting with coverage of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida, I learned how important it was for people to feel like they are being heard in the midst of disaster. To know someone cares enough to connect them to the information or resources they need.
Of course, working in New York City during September 11th was a pivotal point. I learned it was possible to report and anchor news with a knot in your throat. I learned tremendous lessons about the strength of community spirit. There are moments in that experience I will never forget.
What's your advice for someone starting their career in broadcast journalism?
Always reach at least one level higher than you think you’re ready for. I started sending out air-checks to New York radio stations and networks as soon as I started in broadcast journalism. I was so green and new, but I knew where I wanted to be. I eventually got there. I still reach up whenever I can!
Intern! It is a fantastic way to learn the inner workings of a news operation. It’s never too soon to get yourself into the news environment.
Find a mentor! Find someone with experience who is receptive to helping you out.
Be willing to learn! To this day, I am still learning new things. We are never too old or experienced to see things in a different way. When you’re new in a field, there are so many things to learn from so many people. Be prepared to absorb it all. Have a thick skin and take constructive criticism well. It can only help you grow.
Learn every aspect of the work! There is nothing that will make you more valuable than being able to do more than one thing within a newsroom.
Do you use social media in your job?
Every single day. Facebook is an easy way to take the temperature of what people are talking about. Updates on stories and breaking news often show up on Twitter before news agencies get to them. We connect with our listeners on our website all the time. Many times, we tell listeners to visit our website for details on a story we don’t have time to cover in the course of a newscast.
Isn’t it stunning how social media has given us a look at what is going on in every corner of the world? The Arab Spring, protests around the world - - these things become part of the collective because we can see it from the inside out for the first time in history.
How do you use ProfNet and how has it helped you?
ProfNet is a fantastic resource to connect with experts of all kinds. In our global news environment, it’s essential to be aware of where the people are to talk to for the interesting angle on every story.
How has the media industry changed from when you first started?
Outside of the technical end? I laugh when I remember working with reel-to-reel audio - - or carts! The digital age has really shaped what we can do in a newsroom. It has made the entire process faster and more efficient.
There has been a welcome switch from the typical “broadcaster” passing out the news to the masses to a group of people having a conversation with listeners instead. It’s more interactive and easier to really pinpoint the stories that mean something to the audience.
How do you see the business in 10 years?
News will become more and more interactive. As the technology advances, so will the interaction.
What would you be doing if you weren't a journalist?
Without a doubt, I would have gone to culinary school. Now cooking and baking are therapy for me. You always know I’m under stress if you find a number of home-baked goods in the house.
What do you like to do when you're not on-the-air?
Besides the cooking and baking, I am also involved in animal rescue. I co-published an online animal rescue magazine for a while and continue to be active in promoting the adoption of pets from local shelters.
Spending time with my family is precious to me and that family includes three dogs, fish and a cornsnake! We love checking out local events and soaking in the rich history of the Mid-Atlantic.
About Cheryl Simone
Cheryl Simone is a news anchor and community reporter with CBS Radio’s All News 99.1 WNEW in the Washington, DC area. All News 99.1 launched in January 2012.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York…Cheryl has lived in South Florida and Southern California with her husband and son.
Cheryl’s radio career started in South Florida at 560 WQAM and 940 WINZ. She returned to her hometown of NYC in 1995 and spent 10 years at the #1 news station in the nation, 1010 WINS.
Her career also took her to 880 WCBS in New York City, The Wall Street Journal Radio Network in New Jersey, 970/1140 KNWZ in Palm Springs, California and 610 WIOD in Miami, Florida.
Cheryl has won a number of awards in her career, including several AP and March of Dimes A.I.R. awards, as well as the Radio Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Cheryl is also involved in animal rescue and has published an online animal rescue magazine called Four Paws.
ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, has helped journalists and experts connect since 1992. Writers can search the ProfNet Connect database of more than 50,000 profiles; send a ProfNet query by email to thousands of subscribers around the globe; or get timely experts and story ideas by email.