Last week I had the opportunity to meet an amazing woman—she is an inspiration not only for aspiring reporters, she is also a shining example of what it means to be a prepared, patient, and poised woman in the workplace. It was a delight spending the day with Sara Edwards and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again soon. And she’s a proud Bruin like myself! I hope you’ll enjoy this interview with Ms. Edwards—she knows a thing or two about how to give one.
And if you’d like more information, you can visit her website here: http://saraedwardsmedia.com/
1. You have been a reporter for years. Can you tell us how you got started on your journey and how it has affected your happiness?
I attended UCLA majoring in Film and Television. I was there back in 1973 when the department was first created. At the time there were very few women working on camera or behind the scenes in television news so one of my instructors, Frank LaTourette told me to pursue a job in news after graduation. He was right. I was hired in 1975 as a reporter for KLAS TV News in Las Vegas, Nevada and was the first female reporter there. I learned on the job and had to encourage them to give me the tougher stories. I convinced them I was ready when I got exclusive information that an Arab Sheik was buying The Landmark hotel. There was a lot of speculation at the time as to who would buy it. I saw the Sheik in the lobby and ran after him with my cameraman and we made it all the way up to the executive suites where it was confirmed that he was the top bidder. I eventually moved in to entertainment news and enjoyed a long career in Boston on WBZ TV as a co-host on a lifestyle show called “Evening Magazine” and then became an entertainment reporter for the NBC affiliate WHDH TV. While there, NBC News Channel asked me to be their film critic for the 200 affiliates across the country. For ten years I covered the red carpet at the Oscars, Golden Globes and other star studded film and television events. Now I do freelance reporting and writing in Los Angeles and still work for NBC when they need me.
2. What is your favorite story that you’ve covered?
I have many but I think one of my favorite moments in my career was seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise while in India. I was doing a story on this beautiful monument to love and was sitting there taking in all of the exotic sights and scents of this amazing place. I have a picture of it hanging in my house and always smile when I see it. I also loved meeting Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. I remember sitting in his studio back in the 80’s and he was still in a very weird place psychologically. But when he sat down to play “Surfer Girl”, a song that I grew up with on the beaches of So Cal, I was entranced. It was just Brian and me in the studio, waiting for the camera person to set up. One of those little moments that I love remembering.
3. What has been your happiest memory since you’ve been in the business?
I interviewed Barbara Walters three years ago after she wrote her memoir. Her handlers told me I had five minutes with her because of a tight schedule. A half hour later she was still talking to me and shooed her people away saying “I’m enjoying this, she’s a good interviewer.” I was on cloud nine hearing these words coming out of the mouth of my idol.
4. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your career as a reporter and how have you been able to overcome this?
When I started, I had to overcome people’s perception of this 23 year old young woman/girl who was shoving a microphone in their face. They did not take me seriously. I remember interviewing the mobster Frank Rosenthal, who was played by Robert Deniro in the film “Casino”. He ran the Stardust hotel at the time, which was a front for gangster Tony Spilatro. I don’t remember what I asked, but he didn’t like the question. I’m glad I didn’t find a horse’s head in my bed the next day ala “The Godfather”.
5. How do you think the news industry is today compared to when you first started?
I hate to sound old school, but back in the 70’s we were all trying to be Woodward and Bernstein and find the next Watergate. There was a real focus on “hard” and “investigative” news. Now it seems it’s all about the sensational soundbites and superficial stories. I love shows like Sixty Minutes that still try to hang tough, but I miss Mike Wallace. Very few journalists really confront anyone anymore or dig deeply into an issue.
6. What advice would you have for students interested in pursuing this career?
It’s not an easy one. I was hired through Affirmative Action requirements at the time but devoted the time to make my wonderful opportunity grow. If you just want to be a face on television, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you have a burning curiosity about the world, and are willing to put in the time to devote to fact finding and getting to the real issue of things, you may have a chance. I’ve met too many people who just want to be famous. To me, it’s the story that is the star. You are just the vehicle to bring it to the attention of the viewers. Even when I was interviewing celebrities, the story was about them. Being a good listener often makes the best reporters. Dustin Hoffman gave me some great advice during an interview when I told him at the beginning I was a little scared about talking to him since I was such a big fan. He said “Don’t worry about being nervous when you start a project. That means you are on your toes. Every time I start filming a movie I am petrified and one time I had to do 50 takes on a scene. I apologized to the director and he just shrugged and said that the last time he worked with Charlton Heston on a film, he started with 70 takes.”
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook