Hofstra University’s Association of Black Journalists high lighting event of the fall 2013 semester, Book Signing with Cheryl Wills, was a success.
“This is the greatest career to me in the world, you’re writing the first draft of history,” said NY1 Weekend Evening News Anchor Cheryl Wills, speaking to a group of prospective journalists at Hofstra University on Oct. 14, 2013.
Wills addressed stereotypes about how competitive the broadcast industry is and presented a general career plan, telling students “my objective (tonight) is to show you how to get there, and most importantly, straight off the bat, you can get there.” Her message sparked several smiles in the crowd.
Wills was invited to Hofstra for a book signing to commemorate the anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. The event was hosted by Hofstra University’s Association of Black Journalist in collaboration with the Hofstra Cultural Center, the Black Student Union, Collegiate Women of Color and Ed2010.
The television personality declared that the first step to success in the workforce is proactivity in the job hunt and getting ahead of the competition. Wills encouraged students to apply for jobs well before the end of senior year to possibly have a job lined up as soon as they graduate.
Wills got her first job as a news assistant making just over $4 dollars an hour upon graduation from Syracuse University in 1989, and is now one of the longest tenured anchors in the New York City area. She urged students to humbly embrace any opportunity offered to them.
Before getting a chance to sit behind the anchor desk, a journalist must master two important tools; how to use their voice and the art of the stand up Wills explained. When speaking on camera, reporters must exhort authority and confidence while paying attention to punctuation and inflection in their voice. When a reporter appears in front of the camera to narrate part of a story, they must look into the lens and speak with confidence, being detailed and concise, all while maintaining good posture.
Being that there’s so much to learn about how a newsroom operates in addition to mastering voice and presence on camera, Wills recommended going after an entry level newsroom position after graduation since, “you’re only going to learn when you get there.” Once you get into a newsroom, you ascend only by attacking every project assigned with full force, regardless of how tedious. Be a reliable asset and embrace the challenges because “it builds character and makes you stronger,” she said. Learning the ropes behind the assignment desk, as a news writer or a producer will ultimately help you work towards future endeavors.
“You get to write your own ticket,” Wills said, talking about the countless possibilities for a successful broadcaster. The award winning reporter’s broadcast career afforded her the opportunity to document her father’s legacy and write a book about her great-great-great grandfather, Sandy Wills, a runaway slave who fought for his freedom in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. The author of “Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale,” uncovered an amazing story that was lost to her family for over a century.
After speaking about her book and answering questions, Wills spoke about the many opportunities that were not available 20 years ago. She encouraged students to watch the news and read the newspaper every day. The inspirational speaker stressed the importance of internships, honoring your responsibility as a journalist, and having a clear understanding of the difference between an editorial and technical job in the newsroom.
The book signing was opened by Bryan Ogilvie, the author of “How to Conquer Yourself,” a guide to cultivating willpower and discipline as a means of success. Ogilvie emphasized the importance of motivating yourself to master your respective craft and having the discipline to become the best person you can be. The Queens based author’s message was well received as he has a candid ability to communicate and is well in-touch with the youth.
-Alex Pineda, HUABJ Member, WRHU Engineer