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  • Writer's pictureLeila Love

Meet the Broadcast Journalists that Inspired Riley St. James

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

In my upcoming novel, Entangled, the heroine—Riley St. James—is an award-winning broadcast journalist who goes viral after running away from her fairytale wedding and too-good-to-be-true life. She ditches the fiancé, but not the honeymoon, and that’s where the trouble begins.

Throughout Riley’s story, I only scratch the surface of the life of a black female broadcast journalist. Riley’s a compilation and representation of the real stories of women of color on the front lines of news in America. They aren’t just reporting what will later become history—they are also living history.

If you’re reading this, you probably have a few trusted names and faces of journalists associated with your favorite outlet—print, broadcast or digital. I have more than a few that I tune in for, eager to see how they weave the stories that ultimately affect our lives.

Soledad O’Brien. Hoda Kotb. Joy-Ann Reid. April Ryan. Abby Phillip. Athena Jones. Kristen Welker. Tamron Hall. Sonny Hostin. Antonia Hylton.

But these women and the role they play in journalism can’t be measured only by how they show up, but it must also include the times they had to show out to get their seats at the anchor desks. They are professionals that we admire for their work ethic and their power to punch and kick cracks into the glass ceiling.

But it’s not just admiration—they’re like family. Their voices and their faces travel across airwaves reaching homes all across America, and in many ways, we find comfort in their presence.

In 2020, Essence magazine featured ten black female news anchors who paved the way in broadcast journalism. I studied the careers of these women when—once upon a time—I dreamed of being a broadcast journalist. Glamour magazine in 2020 also covered Eight Journalists on Reporting While Black, With the Weight of History on Their Shoulders—black women in broadcast and print newsrooms across the country trying to maintain objectivity while “bearing a unique burden.”

They are the history makers like Melba Tolliver, whose stories were often sidelined because she chose to wear her hair natural in the 1970s. (Yes, fifty years later and black women are still fighting about their hair). The trailblazers like Carole Simpson, who broke the glass ceiling in 1992 when she became the first minority woman to moderate a presidential debate. And the game changers like Jayne Kennedy, who many knew as an actress and model, but became one of the first women to enter the male-dominated sports world as a co-anchor for The NFL Today.

Get to know these women—these storytellers of our lives in the moment. Riley St. James is fictitious—but the struggles represented in her story are not.

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