Posts

A Voice for the Community: Whitney Sullivan ’13

Whitney Sullivan

Whitney Sullivan at WLTX News 19’s headquarters

As an early-morning anchor, Sullivan has been nationally recognized for her dedication to viewers.

WHITNEY SULLIVAN begins her day as Columbia sleeps. She usually settles into her desk at WLTX News 19’s headquarters around 1 a.m. The office, a utilitarian mishmash of brick and steel on Garners Ferry Road, is never truly quiet.

In the digital age, news is not only constant but also constantly documented, and Sullivan knows this dynamic better than most. As an anchor in the 4:30 a.m. slot, she must pull double duty keeping her viewers informed and keeping them from crawling back into bed. But the early hour creates a bond.

“If you get up at 4:30, we’re family,” she says. “Those are my people, those who have to get their day started a little earlier than everyone else.”

Sullivan’s embrace of her viewers is an extension of her approach to journalism. In her role as an anchor, reporter and producer, she favors a community-focused approach acting as a mouthpiece for unsung local heroes and a watchdog for local concerns.

Sometimes that community-conscious approach means covering national news as well. Sullivan’s coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which was nominated for an Emmy, helped Columbia viewers empathize and express grief in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.

“I’m proud of that show because not only did we do that within hours of finding out about it, but I feel like we really presented the facts,” she says. “We worked toward healing. We really got to hear from everybody, about how they felt about that, in our community. Even though it happened in Orlando, there were people hurting in the Midlands from what happened miles and miles away. We were able to tap into that and give a voice to the people and let them express how they were feeling.”

The twin desires to inform and give voice to the local community animate Sullivan’s work.

“I get to be a voice for the people in the community that I love,” Sullivan says. “It’s something that I fall more in love with every day.”

One for the Books: Megan Brown Clarke ’04

With a lot of hard work and long hours, Clarke rose in the ranks of the broadcasting industry.

Alumni Profile: Megan Brown Clarke

MEGAN CLARKE LEARNED TO GET ahead by raising her hand. At 22 years old, she began her career at Fox News as a greeter.

“I was thrown into this amazing, incredibly fast-paced environment interacting with celebrities and politicians,” Clarke says. “I was the first person they’d see when walking in the door.” Wanting to be a part of everything meant raising her hand for anything — breaking news, overnights and television specials.

“It was grueling,” she says. “The days were incredibly long.” Eventually, Clarke’s hard work paid off. Now at 35, she’s one of the youngest vice presidents ever at Fox News, where she leads the booking team. Her responsibilities include making sure sources and contributors are scheduled and prepared for being on air. For her success, she credits the early days of her career.

“You get to know the talent really well [in the greeter position],” Clarke says. “You also have to know the subject matter we’re covering. You’re constantly learning every day. It’s phenomenal.”

With cable news days running 24/7, Clarke says she rarely steps away from her iPhone. Mornings begin with a thorough news browsing session, which involves taking in 15 to 20 different news sites and flipping among all the morning news shows. “I’m like a sponge. I want to see what people have covered and compare that with what’s on my docket for the day,” she says.

Although the days are long, Clarke says she’s never once looked at the clock — 5 p.m. is just another hour of the day. “Our expectations as the No. 1 news network are very high,” she says. “We want to be the closest to the floor of an event or news story. We want to key up the best person on one side of the issue and get the other side of the issue so viewers are exposed to all viewpoints.”

Clarke’s no longer on the front lines of the station greeting guests and contributors, but she never fails to remember — or remind others — where she got her start: “When I was working at 1 a.m. in D.C. cleaning earpieces, I learned you’re never too good for any assignment.”