Megan Roberts of Local 3 News was recently promoted to News Director for Chattanooga’s NBC affiliate, WRCB-TV. She previously served as their assistant news director for nearly two years, after having first joined WRCB back in 2013 as a producer, later leading their morning newscasts as senior producer. She also served as a news producer for WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2017, she returned to Chattanooga and to Local 3 News as an executive producer.
Roberts also worked at WBRC-TV in Birmingham, producing both their morning and evening newscasts. Originally from Anniston, Alabama, she earned her degree in mass communications from Jacksonville State University. An avid hiker, Roberts currently serves on the board of directors for the Pet Placement Center of Chattanooga.
TREND: How did you end up working in journalism?
Roberts: The journalism seed was planted for me on September 11, 2001. Prior to that, I worked on the broadcast team at school, but 9/11 was my first major news event and I remember the day so clearly. I sat in front of the TV all day watching the news. I was still young but I can remember thinking what an important job that felt like, and how much responsibility it held. I started college pursuing a nursing degree (and not doing very well) when a friend suggested journalism. I started classes and it just felt right. I loved it. I started loving it even more once I got into a buzzing, vibrant newsroom.
TREND: Many people perceive the TV-news business as glamorous. What would you say are the best and worst parts of your job?
Roberts: The best part, hands down, is the privilege of telling people’s stories and giving voice to someone who might not otherwise have that opportunity–whether that be to right a wrong, or to hold a person or an organization accountable. We all have unique life experiences and the stories we tell can be a learning opportunity for anyone. The worst part is that we sometimes bear witness to someone’s rock bottom. It can be really challenging not to take those sad days home. Any journalist will tell you, there are certain stories that stick with them forever.
TREND: What is your Newsroom’s process for putting together stories for the day/week?
Roberts: The Newsroom is a 24/7 operation; several shifts and meetings are held throughout the day to determine coverage. We have some really fantastic assignment editors who keep a calendar of big stories and events that are happening each day. We use that as our guide, as well as relying on viewers who send in tips and story ideas. Intentional journalism is really important to our Newsroom, so we have a lot of great collaborative conversations around what types of stories we’re covering and why.
TREND: What are some of the most impactful stories you get to work on?
Roberts: This is a hard one! To me, it’s rewarding when we can humanize a topic that’s perceived as taboo such as addiction or incarceration. I love being able to offer up a different lens or viewpoint that someone may not have had access to before. It’s been my experience that people sometimes forget how these types of situations affect entire families, not just one person.
TREND: Has the field of journalism changed since you first started out in it?
Roberts: So. Much. In about a million different ways. But I would imagine journalists before me also said that when I first got into the field. Social media has really challenged all of us working in this profession: It can be tempting to want to publish a story as quickly as possible, but it’s more important to be truthful and accurate. That can be a hard balance sometimes.
TREND: What drew you to Chattanooga?
Roberts: The outdoors! I’m from a small town in Alabama and followed a childhood friend here after college for a change. We used to visit often for day trips, and I was smitten with Chattanooga from the beginning. Chattanooga is so quaint and has so much to offer–without the headaches of bigger cities (I’m sure our day will come, ha!). I love all of the outdoor access, community, and brewery/restaurant options. And it’s also pretty cool to be just two hours away from several larger cities.
TREND: How should Chattanooga-area businesses pitch Local 3 News when seeking news coverage?
Roberts: My feedback to anyone pitching a story is to offer up a human element, typically through an interview opportunity. For example, if there’s a new women’s center opening in downtown Chattanooga — that will be a much more impactful story if we can show our viewers who it will help.
TREND: Who are some of the folks you’ve sought out for advice along your career journey?
Roberts: I’ve been fortunate to have mentors at all three of the TV stations where I’ve worked, and am still in touch with the first news director to hire me as an associate producer just before I graduated college. Now that I’m a news director myself, I’m so thankful to have her as a resource. Callie Starnes, Local 3’s general manager, has also been a wonderful mentor to me. We started working together a decade ago when I was a producer and she was a reporter. She’s a big reason why I returned to Chattanooga and to Local 3 News. And finally, I don’t know Jill Geisler personally but she’s a journalism professional who I very much respect and admire because she values diversity, inclusion, and a people-driven approach to leadership. On several occasions, she’s graciously responded to my questions over social media with helpful advice.
TREND: What’s the best counsel you could provide to a younger journalist who’s just starting to look around for an opportunity?
Roberts: 1) Establish your “why.” Why did you sign up for this? There’ll be some long, hard days where you want to throw in the towel. Returning to your “why” during those moments will be so important. 2) Stay curious. I’ve been in the business for more than a decade and am still learning every day. And, 3) Remember it’s possible to be both a journalist AND a human being.
Read one of TREND‘s previous “Getting the Scoop” articles, here.