A Passion for Journalism
Detroit broadcaster deals with life-changing disease daily
Lee Thomas is an Emmy-award winning news anchor and entertainment reporter for Fox 2 News in Detroit. He's also a fighter. He battles every day with the struggles of his life-changing skin disorder called vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a loss of pigmentation that causes permanent white spots or patches on skin. There is no cure and no apparent cause for the disease. Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop," is probably the most famous person who has had the skin disorder.
"It is important to be tolerant of other people and maybe show compassion and understanding before you show judgment because once you start casting judgments on people you might start thinking things in your head that might not be true," Thomas said.
Thomas covers his disorder with makeup on TV to prevent distractions. He only disclosed what was under his makeup after he was inspired by a 15-year-old boy. The boy also had vitiligo, and he asked Thomas to show his face on TV because it would give confidence to the boy — he wore a mask to go out and play.
The story that Lee did about his vitiligo became one of the highest rated stories on the channel.
"It wasn't about me showing my face or not or my own embarrassment or me thinking I am going to lose my job," Thomas said. "It became about me maybe educating other people and helping people, which I thought was only going to be two kids at the time. But it turned out to be [helpful to] people across the country and the world who didn't understand vitiligo."
A Journalist on the Beat
As a broadcaster, Thomas anchors the news and also does entertainment segments. He won two Emmy awards for a segment called "Trading Places." In the segment, he trades jobs with another person — they take his job while he does theirs. Some of the jobs he's tried in the segment are construction worker, working mom, drive-thru employee, teacher, singing telegram, and sheriff's deputy.
"I learned that I have a great job and there is a lot of hard working people out there, and no matter what job you are doing, it is up to you to make it fun or not," he emphasized.
Thomas also covers hard news, which he calls a "harsh reality of life."
"It talks about a lot of things that are more difficult subjects to approach and when you touch on those subjects, you have to be careful, you have to be compassionate, your job as a journalist is to report the information and not to infuse your own opinion," Lee said.
Lee has always had a passion for journalism, and he enjoys entertainment news specifically. He told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps that if someone is excited about journalism, they should start doing it.
"Don't wait, this is a technology driven business and with technology the way it is, you can start right now, have your own show, broadcast it on the web, just as we have the ability to broadcast here at Fox 2," Thomas said.
Today, Lee is also a motivational speaker who does speaking engagements all over the world to explain his life story and educate people about his skin disorder. He also wrote a book, Turning White: A Memoir of Change. It discusses his everyday battles dealing with the disease and his goals of helping people understand the disorder.
"It takes you outside of you, and when you start helping other people it enhances your life immensely," Thomas added. "And you realize that you are not in it alone and we are all alike, as vitiligo goes across all ethnicities."
Thomas strives to live by something Anthony Robbins, a success coach, once said: "Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more."
"There is no barrier that you cannot overcome," Thomas concluded. "And much like Tony Robbins says, life is a gift and once you have the gift of life it is really the starting point for everything good because people always worried about what they don't have but you realize what you do have when you get sick."
For more of the story, check out Kid Reporter Charlie Kadado's post about visiting the Fox 2 News studios in Detroit on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog!
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