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Blackmon, Brenda

Brenda Blackmon

1952–

Television news anchor

Award-winning news anchor Brenda Blackmon has made a name for herself as a gifted journalist and compassionate community member. She joined WWOR's Channel 9 News, broadcasting to New York and New Jersey, in 1990 as a news reporter and fill-in anchor, and soon landed a lead anchor spot and many of her industry's top awards. She began her career in television news at WRBL-TV in her home town of Columbus, Georgia, where she soon became the station's first African-American anchor. By the 1990s, Blackmon's reporting to the New York metropolitan area earned her three Emmy awards, as well as a great many Associated Press awards. Blackmon used her growing celebrity to inspire and help others, starting the Brenda Blackmon Communications as a business for community outreach and networking. She has been honored for her community work with such accolades as the Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award: Outstanding Young Women in America and special recognition by the March of Dimes, among others.

Brenda Blackmon was born on August 20, 1952, in Columbus, Georgia, the daughter of Melzetta and Lorenza Hinton. She attended high school in Columbus and went to the University of Georgia in 1970 to study psychology with the aim of working with mentally handicapped children. But when she landed a news reporting job at WRBL-TV—after applying for a job as a receptionist and switchboard operator—she dropped out of college. She eventually returned to education in the 1990s, attending Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) and graduating with a bachelor's degree in 2001.

Growing up in the segregated South in the 1950s and 1960s Blackmon was acutely aware of being discriminated against and suffered the indignity of segregated public transportation and restrictions in other public spaces. She was among only the second intake of black students at the University of Georgia. She told FDU Magazine that being taught African-American history by a teacher who feared he would be fired for doing so is one of her strongest memories of school days. At WRBL she was a beneficiary of "affirmative action," arriving at the station at a time when it needed a black reporter, but she also struggled with an atmosphere in which questions asked by black reporters were often overlooked. Nevertheless Blackmon became WRBL's television news anchor, the first African-American anchor in the city of Columbus, before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1979.

In Nashville Blackmon honed her skills as a reporter on a wide range of subjects, including conducting an interview with the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. In a May 2005 interview she told EURWeb about the experience of reporting on the KKK rally in Smyrna, Tennessee: "I was the reporter, a Jewish engineer was working the audio and an Irish cameraman was working the video. I remember all three of us standing on top of this hill looking down at all these burning crosses and white hoods and I know as we paused there, each of us was thinking … why are we here?" Such experiences helped establish Blackmon's reputation for professionalism, but she is also known for her enthusiasm and on-screen warmth.

Blackmon joined WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey, in 1990 as a reporter and stand-in anchor and quickly began to make a name for herself. The move marked her rise to one of the most watched channel's in the country. She did not squander the opportunity. In 1995 she won the first of three Emmys (she also won in 1997 and 1998) for Best Single Newscast in the New York Area, as well as numerous Associated Press awards. These include awards for Best Election Coverage (1993 and 1994), Best Pope Coverage (1995), Best Spot News Coverage for "Snow Storm," (1995) and "Train Crash Tragedy," (1996), and Best Newscast (1998). Her assignments have also included the World Trade Center attacks, and the inauguration of President George W. Bush, her first presidential inauguration in 30 years of television news journalism.

Blackmon does more than stay informed by her work; she stays in touch. She dedicates much of her time to community service and outreach programs through her company, Brenda Blackmon Communications, and by lending her time and talent to charitable organizations. Blackmon has been commended in particular for her commitment to hosting the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. In 2006 she was named one of the top 25 most influential black women in business by The Network Journal. She has also mentored journalism students and told EURWeb "I try to convey to these young people the importance of doing something in life they love; something that brings joy and gives them a real sense of purpose in life." In the early 1990s Blackmon returned to education herself, enrolling at Fairleigh Dickinson University to study for a bachelor's degree in communications; she graduated in 2001. Blackmon has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Caldwell College, NJ, and from the University of Georgia.

At a Glance …

Born Brenda Hinton on August 20, 1952, in Columbus, GA; divorced; children: Kelly. Education: Fairleigh Dickinson University, BA, communications, 2001.

Career: WRBL-TV, Columbus, GA, reporter and news anchor, 1970–79; WRBL, Nashville, TN, news anchor, 1979–90; WWOR-TV, Secaucus, NJ, news anchor, 1990–.

Memberships: National Association of Black Journalists.

Selected awards: International Women's Year of Outstanding Service, 1977; Citizen of the Year, Zeta Phi Beta Society, 1984; Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award, 1987; Emmy Awards, for Best Single Newscast in the NY Area, 1995, 1997, 1998; Associated Press Award, for Best New Series, 1995; Associated Press Award, for Best Sport News, 1995; Associated Press Award, for Best Sport News Coverage, 1996; Associated Press Award, for Best Coverage of a Continuing Story, 1996; Associated Press Award, for Best Newscast, 1998; United Hospital Fund New Leadership Group, Humanitarian Award, 2002.

Addresses: Office—WWOR-TV, 9 Broadcast Plaza, Secaucus, NJ 07094-2913.

Sources

Periodicals

Carib News, July 24, 2001, p. 26.

Daily News, July 25, 2001, p. 2.

Ebony, July 2005.

On-line

"Brenda Blackmon," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (June 20, 2006).

"Brenda Blackmon," My 9 News, www.upn9.com/news/blackmon.shtml (June 14, 2006).

"The Network Journal To Honor Top Black Women Executives At Business Awards Luncheon," exodusnews.com, www.exodusnews.com/Business/Business112.htm (June 20, 2006).

"News Anchor's Education A Two-Part Story," FDU, www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/02sp/black.html (September 21, 2006).

"People Of Note: Brenda Blackmon: Anchored to the News and Loving It." EURWeb, www.eurweb.com/story/eur20191.cfm (June 14, 2006).

"The Winners, 25 Influential Black Women in Business: Brenda Blackmon—News Anchor, '9 News at Ten,' WWOR-TV, Secaucus, N.J.," The Network Journal, www.tnj.com/events/2006winners/2006bblackmon.php (June 14, 2006).

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