Thursday, March 1, 2012

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? "Once a Journalist, Always a Journalist!"

(Johannesburg, South Africa)-Norma Quarles, Carol Simpson and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, three names that dominated the broadcast news industry in the late 80's and 90's. As a little girl growing up in Prichard, Alabama they were my "it" girls because there were not a lot of examples of strong black female journalists "on air" for me. (Keep in mind this was long before the years of Oprah!)  I also never forgot this "fiercely feminine" trio because they broke down barriers, opened doors and paved the way for me.

I remember it like it was yesterday, Sunday after church I'd check out Charlayne Hunter-Gault on PBS. After dinner, Norma Quarles had my undivided attention in between my mother's serving of Southern "chicken and dressing" with NBC Nightly News on the television.  Carol Simpson anchored ABC Evening News--Weekend Edition, respectively.

In the late 80's, early 90's they dominated the airwaves, but one by one they all slowly disappeared from the scene. I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Simpson during an NABJ Convention in Nashville nearly a decade ago. To this day Simpson is still quick to tell you what's on her mind and she doesn't mince words when it comes to talking about the continued struggle of breaking down "stereotypes" in the broadcast industry.

A few years later, during another NABJ convention and saw Charlayne Hunter-Gault in a crowded room of other well known national black journalists. I didn't get to meet Gault because my feet would not come unglued from their place. I was somewhat apprehensive about actually walking up to my  childhood "shero!" I would never tell Carol, but Charlayne was my favorite. Whenever she was on my television I was immediately awestruck. Not only is she tall and has a "big" presence on camera, to this day she is still articulate and has that smile illuminates any room she enters.
Imagine my surprise when I turned on my television this weekend to find her on the air again after all these years. Charlayne Hunter-Gault was hand picked as a special correspondent for NBC Weekend Today. She had the undaunted task of giving Lester Holt a medical update on another "iconic" male figure that become the lone symbol of ending Apartheid, former South African President Nelson Mandela.

It's got to be gratifying for Gault who now lives full-time in South Africa to know she still has the trust and respect of her colleagues back here at home.  Though her hair is now practically white, coiled tightly and different from her days of yesteryear, the wrinkles on her face are a vivid reminder of the miles she logged as an "international correspondent." I'm happy to say after all those years of my humble beginnings of growing up from Prichard, Mrs. Gault still has a way of "stopping me dead in my tracks."

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is one of those seasoned reporters who can still do the legwork and really "go get the big stories." Her intellect and integrity make me proud to spell my name "w-o-m-a-n" as I enter nearly 20 years in the business. Even today without the luxury of major call letters at the back of her name, Charlayne Hunter-Gault exemplifies what I know for sure, "once a journalist, always a journalist!"

Click for Link to:
PBS-"WHERE ARE THEY NOW?" -Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Click for Link to:
Media Bistro--Update on Norma-Quarles

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