News anchor Elise Roberts knows firsthand that working in television is by no means an easy career path. Despite knowing this, she has aspired to work in television for as long as she can remember and has done whatever she could to make this happen. And make it happen she did! From her at internships with MTV Networks and The Weather Channel, just to name a few, to her current position as a news anchor with the Time Warner Cable News Team in North Carolina, Elise has learned a great deal along the way.
Her advice to those looking to break into the television industry? “Be a sponge. There is so much to learn. Pay attention to those who are doing it right and even those who are doing it all wrong…There are so many people lined up to take your spot. Make them miss you if you leave.” It’s this kind of attitude and determination that despite a great deal of pressure and very early mornings (her alarm is set for 3:00 a.m.!) that has made Elise into the success she is today.
Read on to learn more about Elise’s inspiring career path, how she schedules her very busy workdays, and her favorite part about living in Charlotte.
Full name: Elise Roberts
Current title: Anchor/reporter
Educational background: Kennesaw State University and Tulane College, B.S. Marketing, B.S. Communication (dual degree program)
What was your first job out of college? How did you land it?
My first job out of college actually started before college. I finished most of my coursework in high school early so by my junior year I entered a work-study program. My family scored me a job at our credit union. I worked there as a teller and then in the loan department for almost three years before leaving to go to college. After graduating college, I still didn’t have a television job. So I returned to the credit union full-time. Every day after leaving the credit union, I would spend at least two hours on career sites looking for open entry-level positions. If I found one I was interested in, I would craft a tailored cover letter and resume. The next morning on my way to work at the bank, I would drop off my resumes and resume tapes in mail. It became my daily routine.
Six months after graduating I finally started getting calls. I went on three interviews: one in Macon, another in Augusta, Ga., and a third in Evansville, In. I passed on Evansville, Augusta passed on me, and I accepted a job at WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga. I am thankful for my time at the credit union because it taught me the importance of professionalism, dependability, and being on time. I also built a professional wardrobe and established great credit at a young age.
After your time at WMAZ-TV, you moved on to WLOX-TV, covering the news for Southern Mississippi. What was this transition like? How did your job responsibilities differ?
The decision to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast was not an easy one. At my first job, I was basically doing everything but not getting really good at any one thing. After about three months of applying to stations, I decided to accept the job in Mississippi as a reporter and fill-in anchor. The coast had just gone through Hurricane Katrina and was very depressing; there was widespread devastation. I had to live in a senior community for two months until an apartment became available! Talk about sacrifice! However, I was fortunate enough work for three years at a station that ended up winning an Emmy, a Peabody, and an honorable mention in Time magazine for its work. Big awards aren’t everything, but in my opinion, however, they do establish credibility. Unlike my first television job, WLOX allowed me the opportunity to focus on reporting only, instead of doing a number of things like reporting, producing and anchoring and never really becoming strong at anything. During my third year, my boss put me on the anchor desk a few nights a week while my main anchor was out on maternity leave. I sat beside a veteran journalist and learned some very valuable skills. He ended up becoming one of my mentors. In Mississippi, I also met some of the nicest people. The community embraced me and five years later, I still get messages on my public Facebook page. Oh, who can forget the seafood! I thought I would grow fins I was eating so much seafood.
After three years at WLOX-TV, you joined the Time Warner Cable News Team in North Carolina. What are your responsibilities in this position? How has your position evolved since joining the team in 2009?
I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina as a producer/reporter for the 24 hours cable news network (think baby CNN). It was a new concept but I knew the structure of news was changing, so I decided to go for it. The first year, I covered the news affecting the Triad region, including the start of the John Edwards trial. I also produced the newscast on the weekend evenings. I transitioned into a full-time reporter my last two years there and I started regularly filling in on the anchor desk. Becoming a regular anchor (not fill-in) was the next step I wanted for my career. When the weekend anchor position opened in Charlotte, I applied, was hired, and transferred within the company to the Queen City in the summer of 2012. Today I have my own weekend show and even though I work a typical eight-hour day, people across the state can watch me from 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. During the week, I am live in the field reporting. I also shoot, write, and edit my own stories.
When did you first realize you wanted to work in television?
I have always wanted to work in television! I grew up in a home where it’s important to be in the know. To this day, my mom watches the news from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and she switches channels to see who has what. She’s always been that way. My grandparents still read the newspaper cover-to-cover every day. As a young girl, I would visit my great-grandmother and at 6 p.m., it was news time! We loved to watch anchor Monica Kauffman. She had beautiful brown skin and a big bright smile. She was confident and I believed everything she said. She was someone I could identify with and that’s important. I knew one day, I would have that same impact on people. Today, she is retired but is still one of my mentors. We even tweet each other from time to time.
As a young girl, I would visit my great-grandmother and at 6 p.m., it was news time! We loved to watch anchor Monica Kauffman. She had beautiful brown skin and a big bright smile. She was confident and I believed everything she said. She was someone I could identify with and that’s important.
You held several internships before landing your first job. What were the most valuable lessons you learned as an intern? What advice do you have for current interns hoping to set themselves apart from other job applicants?
First and foremost my advice to all college students, DO NOT wait until you are nearing graduation to get an internship. The best ones in TV are competitive. I had seven, yes, seven internships. Some I got school credit for, others I didn’t. These days I think you can only intern if you are getting credit. I am from a large market (Atlanta) so I was able to spend time with seasoned reporters and producers. I interned at almost every local station there: MTV Networks, The Weather Channel, and in the news department at the highest rated urban radio morning show. I also interned at a media marketing company in Kennesaw, Ga. If you want to produce, hang out with producers. If you want to report, spend time with anchors and reporters. If you aren’t sure, spend time with anyone who’s willing to give it to you! Make a resume tape; you will need it when it’s time to apply for jobs. You will have to get help from a reporter and/or photographer when they have time. Pay them with pizza. Food will get you everywhere in this business.
Tell us about a particular challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in your career. How were you able to overcome it?
My biggest challenge was moving to the Gulf Coast. I arrived only weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit. There were no street signs, few markers, and a lot of sadness from people who had lost everything. I actually had to live in a senior condo for almost three months because there were no apartments available. Many people who lost their homes moved inland into apartments until they could leave the area or rebuild. I sat in the car and cried after my first day on the job and I am not a crier! I gave myself a good five minutes, shook it off, and stayed there throughout my three year contract. I buried myself in news, volunteering, and establishing life-long friendships.
Working in television for many years, you’ve covered a wide variety of stories. What are some of the most memorable?
The most memorable story was probably the most difficult story. I was working on a story in Mobile, Ala. where a father threw all four of his children—all under the age of five—from a bridge. It took nearly two weeks to find the babies. I remember watching rescuers give the signal once a body was found. The Vietnamese Community were so supportive to the mother, the media, and rescuers. They brought us food every night. They also prayed and lit candles near the base of the bridge. That story landed me on CNN and HLN for the first time in my career. It was a definitely a milestone but a very, very sad story.
On the other hand, TV news has afforded me some great opportunities. I’ve been serenaded by Jason Aldean, been in the same room with President Obama and President Clinton in the same week, built a house with Nancy Grace, made ice cream with Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s, and I learned how to take the perfect selfie from Kim Kardashian, just to name a few. So hey, in my book, I’m winning.
What advice do you have for women seeking employment in television?
Be a sponge. There is so much to learn. Pay attention to those who are doing it right and even those who are doing it all wrong. I’m amazed when I meet people new to the business who want to see their name in lights but don’t want to do the work. They complain about schedules, not having the title they want, or not making enough money. Being on TV is about more than a pretty face and great hair. I have worked as a news assistant, an associate producer, producer, a weekend assignment editor, and now an anchor/reporter who still shoots, writes, and edits my own stories (and works weekends). I love the work but realize I have to brand myself and be someone of value. There are so many people lined up to take your spot. Make them miss you if you leave.
Be a sponge. There is so much to learn. Pay attention to those who are doing it right and even those who are doing it all wrong.
Also, if you are in it for the money well, see ya! Don’t get me wrong the money will come, but you will have to spend the first two or three years counting your pennies. So be smart about spending. I come from a family of hard workers, many of whom are entrepreneurs. I was always taught, “It’s not what you make, it’s how you manage.” There are people who earn well into the six figures who are drowning in debt and people who make an average salary and are living just fine. It’s your money, make sure you manage it and mange it well!
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs in cities you’ve never heard of—this is my only regret. You have to get your foot in the door. Have an attorney look over your contract BEFORE you sign it. Contracts protect the company but they also protect you. Learn how to negotiate. They may not budge much on your first job, but it never hurts to ask. This is where having a mentor or someone in the business who you have a relationship with will really come in handy!
We imagine you have encountered some high stress situations. What’s your advice for dealing with chaos in the workplace?
Since my days are so unpredictable, I have learned to take a deep breath and do the best that I can. I am also very, very organized. I take good notes, maintain three calendars, and make sure I follow-up on calls and emails within 24 hours. Connections are important in TV, so you have to stay on top of things.
What is a typical workday like for you?
Well let me say this: Nothing in news is typical. News is breaking, news is now. You never know who you will meet or what may happen at any moment. That’s the joy of this business. However, how I start and end my day are pretty much the same. Three days a week, I report. I wake up at 2:45 a.m., scroll through my phones for any missed calls, and check my email. Then I head downstairs. Turn on the national news and eat my breakfast. I’m dressed and out the door by 4 a.m. I get to the station, chat with my producer about what’s going on, and head out to do morning live hits with my photographer. At 6:30 a.m. I have a conference call with management to decide on my story for the day. Around 8 a.m. I part ways with my photographer and head out to shoot interviews and video on my own. I’m back in the newsroom by 10 a.m. (on a good day) to write and edit by my deadline. By 1:30 p.m.(on a good day), I’m out the door.
The weekends are a bit different since I anchor my own show. Everything at home is the same. My report time to work however, is 4 a.m. I usually read through scripts and we start taping clips. I’m on set for about four hours recording non-stop before I break. We have some live elements. However, many stories are taped because I am working for a statewide network. So, some stories that air in Charlotte, may not work in Wilmington or Raleigh or Greensboro. Producers select what works for their market to build their show from hour to hour.
DO NOT wait until you are nearing graduation to get an internship.
Before bed, I always prepare lunch for the next day and pull out what I’m going to wear. I have to make my morning as easy as possible because it never gets easy waking up at that time of the day. Sadly, I’m in bed by 8 p.m. Womp. Womp.
You’ve moved quite a bit throughout your career and are now settled in Charlotte, North Carolina. What do you love most about living in Charlotte? What are your favorite things to do in the city?
I love the growth spurt Charlotte is experiencing. It’s a beautiful, clean city and it reminds me of pre-Olympic Atlanta. I’m a native of Atlanta so the fact that I can get there in 30 minutes on a plane or three and a half hours in the car is nice. It’s also good to be closer to my family but far enough away to where no one is dropping by.
Best moment of your career so far?
There‘s not one big moment I can think of but small victories like getting a card, email, or phone call from someone saying I helped them, changed their life, or letting me know how much they enjoy watching me always makes me smile. You need to be appreciative yet humble in this business. I believe about half of what I hear. I will admit it’s still weird to see myself on TV at the gym or have someone call my name at the grocery store.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Chill out, you got this.
Elise Roberts is The Everygirl…
Morning or night?
Favorite way to unwind?
After I leave my primary job, I focus on my side hustle (Everyone needs one of those! Never depend on one stream of income). I sell vintage inspired jewelry and accessories. So traveling and looking for unique pieces helps me unwind. I also dabble in home decor. When I’m not doing that, I have my head buried in a book. There are usually two books on my nightstand (I’m old school), and I maintain a gratitude journal filled with things I’m thankful for, quotes that get me through tough times, and bible verses.
Sunday for me is actually a Tuesday. I love to sit on the porch, with a book close by, and a glass of wine. Ideally neither phone will ring for a few hours and I won’t think about work. It’s tough, but I try to squeeze in quiet time a couple times a week.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet Oprah and spend the day at Harpo Studios. She is definitely my dream lunch date. If I had my way I would hang out with her in her beautiful garden, pick out some goodies, then we would head inside for a sit down lunch whipped up by a chef of course. Lunch would be light but then we would throw down with dessert! We would talk a little about TV but mostly about life. She has a big personality as do I, and I think we would have good easy conversation and big hearty laughs.
Aidan or Big?
Let me tell you, I’ve dated some Bigs in my day and while it may be exciting. I’ve decided an Aidan is good enough for me. He’s handsome, honest, and handy. Yes, please!