ABC's Robin Roberts
Scholastic News visits the set of Good Morning America
Kid Reporter Kajal Jani talks to ABC journalist Robin Roberts on the set of Good Morning America in New York City in January 2007. Roberts is co-anchor of the morning show with journalist Diane Sawyer. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)
Robin Roberts of Good Morning America is not only a role model for African-American women, but for all women and all African-Americans. It’s a position she is proud of and has worked hard for.
"I think being a woman and a woman of color, I’m always looking for equality both for my gender and for my race as well,” she told Scholastic News in an interview. "It’s kind of hard because people will say to me, ‘Is it more difficult being black or more difficult being a woman?’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve always been a black woman, so I don’t know! I don’t know what it’s like not to!’”
In her more than 20 years in broadcast news, Roberts has won numerous awards and honors for her work. She got her start in journalism as a sports reporter, where breaking gender barriers was harder than breaking color barriers.
"I look at the struggles and adversity as things that make me stronger,” she said. "I don’t play at making excuses or playing what they call the race card or the gender card. My parents always taught me to be the best person that I can be and you can’t really do much if other people make comments about you race or gender, but I don’t let that be something that I spend time on.”
Instead she spent her time on succeeding, although it didn’t always turn out the way she planned.
Early in her life, Roberts wanted to be a pilot. She told her father she was going to drop out of college and join the military to follow in his footsteps. He was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots in the U.S. military. They flew for the Army Air Corps during World War II.
Her father told her he would help her study for the test to get into officer candidacy school, but if she failed, she had to promise to return to college. She failed the test and returned to Southeastern Louisiana University where she graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications. While there, she changed her dream.
Roberts was a star on the women's basketball team, ranking as the school's third all-time leading scorer. During her senior season, she averaged a career high of 15.2 points per game. She wanted to be a professional athlete.
"I didn’t care if it was tiddlywinks, I love competition,” Roberts said. But she realized early on that she could never go pro—but she could talk about it.
Roberts worked at small stations throughout the south gaining experience reporting on sports. At her first job she earned $5.50 an hour for a 30-hour week. She worked in four different media markets in seven years, learning all the skills she still uses today. While gaining that experience, her passion for sports turned into a passion for journalism.
"It overwhelms you what you can do with journalism—the written word—just the change that you can effect,” she said.
Roberts attributes much of her success to her role model: her mother. Her mom was the first person in her family to go to collage. Now Roberts is a role model for other young girls. Her advice to them is to be themselves.
"You have to take all this information and personalize it,” she said. "What’s going to work best for you? What’s true to you? So I say, be patient and be persistent. And as a woman, you have to have thick skin."
Off the set of the show, Roberts likes to spend time with her Jack Russell terrier Killer Jack, or KJ. She visits her family in the Gulf Coast region in Louisiana and Mississippi as often as she can. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has been active in helping rebuild the area. When she retires, she says she plan on moving south to be with her family.
But she won’t be retiring soon. She loves her job at Good Morning America, she says, because it’s different everyday. On the day Scholastic News paid a visit, Roberts interviewed Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a candidate for President, and actress Jennifer Garner, who is starring in a new movie opening on Valentine’s Day.
When asked to describe her job in three words, she hesitated only a moment.
"An absolute blast!" she said. "Or, it totally rocks! Either one."
The same can be said of Roberts herself.
For more on the achievements and contributions of women in the United States, check out the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Women's History Month Special Report.
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Kajal Jani is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.