Meeting Valorie Lawson fulfills a dream for aspiring broadcast journalist, Ka’Mya Robinson.
You may have read in my ECHOboom introduction that one of my aspirations in life involves becoming a television news anchor. My inspiration was WSFA evening news anchor, Valorie Lawson. For quite some time, I’ve been watching her closely as she dominates prime time news on the premier television station in Montgomery.
And I can trace her influence on my career choice back to the 11th grade. That is when I knew the time was close for me to think about what my major and minor would be when I went to college. After learning that Mrs. Lawson graduated from Alabama A&M University earning a B.A. degree in Telecommunications, I made sure to do everything I needed to do to get accepted into A&M so I could follow in her footsteps.
Even though I left A&M to attend Alabama State University, my dream never left me. I took a break from school for one year and then decided to jump back in to pursue a master’s degree in Communications/Public Relations. I’ve tried on my own to gain exposure and professional advice in my field, but given that my school is an online platform, it has been difficult for me to make the right connections. I’m more of a hands-on learner, so virtual learning is not ideal for me. Nonetheless, I continue to persevere.
Recently, I was introduced to Karin Hopkins, Founder and President of ECHOboom and since then, she’s taken me under her wing. She shares valuable insights concerning the news business, an industry she knows well since after spending many years as a reporter, producer and news anchor. When she discovered how Valorie Lawson influenced my decision to become a news anchor, Karin asked if I was interested in meeting her, and I was ecstatic! It was then that I realized that sometimes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
On March 11, 2018 at 11:30 am, I had the pleasure of meeting and having lunch with both of these ladies. I had butterflies and my hands were shaking as I walked into Twin Peaks restaraunt. This moment had finally come.
I was unsure of whether to shake her hand or just speak, but out of excitement, I went in for a hug!! I told her a little bit about myself including the fact that I began my college career at AAMU and where I am now. She told me about herself as well as far as her schooling and her experience in telecommunications so far. Hearing her speak of her Alma Mater and how she goes back to her stomping grounds for homecoming with her family and being in attendance for the Magic City Classic warmed my heart. “I’m glad I went to A&M; it was indeed a great experience!” So, if you didn’t know that she’s a true bulldog, well, now you know!
She told me that one of her first jobs was working in the studio located in Morrison Hall where she assisted with cameras. She later progressed to radio broadcasting as a reporter and anchor at WAHR, a radio station also located in Huntsville, but her audition at WHNT News 19 was what got her on to the big screen. One major thing that I learned was that in order for me to become an anchor, you have to have background experience. She hit me with the question, “Do you have an audition tape??” I was INSTANTLY blindsided not even realizing that of course I would need to have one. “Anyone can write something on paper and make it sound good. Your foot in the door is an audition tape; that is your resume.” She also informed me that becoming an anchor is a process. She emphasized how important it is to become a reporter first. As a reporter, you are given specific assignments, times and deadlines as well as the responsibility of writing your own stories.
Going back to what she said about making things look good on paper, she told me about the time she truly understood what television reporting was all about. She had written a story she thought was ready for editing, but after her news director read it, he obviously knew something was missing. He asked her to close her eyes, visualize herself back at the scene and talk about what she remembered. She gave a detailed description of what she witnessed and with three adjectives alone, her told her, “That’s what I want you to include in your story. Take me there, make me feel as though I’m on that journey with you. I want to experience the crumbling roads and the sounds my car would make while driving.” Make what’s on paper come to life! Furthermore, she informed me that my main focus should be to find a local reporter of my liking as well as a national reporter and study them the way I studied her on the news. She suggested someone from her camp Ms. Morgan Young (news reporter/weekend anchor) and since then, I’ve taken the initiative to follow her on all social media platforms that I have accounts with as well as introduce myself to her. Karin also volunteered to assist me with news writing and development of a demo tape. Valorie agreed to critique my demo reel.
As much as I didn’t want that day to end, I knew the moment would come. I had to let Mrs. Lawson know of how appreciative I was to have spent time with her after years of wanting to meet her.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a hoarder when it comes to keeping certain things that are sentimental and dear to me. I told her how happy I was the first time she responded to my message. She was surprised because I informed her that my time at AAMU was from 2009 to 2012. Even though we were about to leave, I told her I still had the e-mail exhange from when she and I communicated. She laughed and said, “I want to know what I said, I gotta hear this!” As I read those two messages I sent her and the responses I received from her as well (one from 2011 and the other from 2014), the three of us stood there in awe.
I also acknowledged the picture that appeared in my memories on Facebook that I put in one of my albums titled, “My Inspirations” of her engaged in the production of a documentary entitled “Selma: A March to Remember.”
Memories like the e-mail thread and the lunch meeting are forever cherished. It’s rare that you reach out to successful people and hear back from them. Valorie Lawson is genuine and I felt good vibes and positive energy from her.
That day is definitely one for the books. Valorie Lawson, I thank you again for taking the time to have lunch with me and becoming a source for advice and feedback.
Karin Hopkins, thank you so much for making this day a reality for me.