Capitol Communicator has been interviewing people who are or have been in the media about their careers and the media. Below is our Q&A with Cheryl Conner Costello, who has worked as a TV reporter in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore markets, including WJLA-TV and WMAR-TV. She started her television career at WHAG in Hagerstown, MD, is now with Chesapeake Bay Media and just got a lot busier!

Hi Cheryl, what are you doing now?

I’m the video reporter for Chesapeake Bay Media. Poor me, I spend many working hours on a boat or by the water.

The changes I witnessed in journalism are serving me so well now. At the University of Maryland more than 20 years ago, I was told to diversify myself. If you want to be a reporter, be a pro with the technical side too, like shooting video and editing on digital software. Embracing those changes allowed me to hop around the TV markets, most recently in Baltimore and D.C., as a multimedia journalist. Once my husband and I had our first child, I was ready for a more flexible work life. I’m so fortunate that skill set transferred to Chesapeake Bay Media, where I’m the multi-media journalist for all platforms: Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Bay Bulletin and Bay Weekly.

How and where did you get your start?

After graduating from the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in 2000, my first job was at WHAG in Hagerstown, MD. Just don’t ask me how much I made for doing it all — reporting, shooting and editing video, writing several stories for a broadcast and anchoring.

Why did you want to go into news?

News is not in my genes but it’s in my blood. I don’t come from a family of journalists, but my parents would often have Channel 4 in D.C. on while we ate dinner and I did homework. There was a “performance” aspect that I liked initially; the challenge of live TV hooked me. I’m sure my basement is home to a VHS tape from that first live shot in Hagerstown when I nearly buckled at the knees from the nerves, and I hope it never comes to life again. That low paycheck was more like earning a masters degree in how to tell a concise story for a live TV audience. As I learned more about the business, writing and listening and asking questions and digging for information, I was hooked. It’s fun to have Facebook friends today tell me they remember me saying I would be a TV news reporter. News will always be in my blood.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best part is seeing how journalism can open eyes and help people. One example from the past: The survivor of a sex trafficking ring in Baltimore shared her gut-wrenching story of how her beautiful voice was used against her and she was carted across the country, not for a music deal but to be sold for sex. Our story won an AP award and was played at a governor’s training conference for law enforcement in Maryland. I still have the honor of sharing stories on people who are cleaning up the Bay, for example. At CBM, we hope our storytelling is not only informative, but inspirational for others to do their part for the environment.

Who have been your role models?

If I start dropping names, I’m bound to forget someone. The role of reporting moves at such a fast pace, and I’m always taking mental notes from people I admire. The facts are first, but your own hutzpah is so important. Confidence, on and off the air, just gets better with experience and by humbling yourself to pay attention to what others can teach you.

What stories moved you the most?

Stories that require some digging to uncover information that informs and helps the audience are most gratifying, along with features I’ve done on people who are so grateful for the media spotlight.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the media going forward?

Never give up on reporting the truth. The media’s reputation has been widely challenged in recent years. We must never stop covering all sides of a story and asking tough questions to uphold the purpose of a free press.

What would have been your second career choice?

Something with kids and exercise. I coached elementary kids in Girls on the Run, an after-school program that works on building confidence while training for a 5k race. I love influencing children at a young age. The benefits of good nutrition and exercise are life-changing, and I love seeing the changes in my own life.

What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

Traveling, exercising with people at a gym, socializing — all activities that froze a year ago. I hope 2021 brings us back to the people.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I’m answering these questions while I’m about to go into labor. Instead of waiting for breaking news, I’m waiting for breaking water. My husband and I are expecting our second son at the end of February. News has taught me how to handle the chaos that comes with being a mom.

Editor’s Note: Less than 24 hours after her interview with Capitol Communicator, Cheryl and her husband Jamie welcomed baby number 2 — Domenic Anthony, 8lbs 15oz 21 inches, also giving Gio a new name, big brother!

One Response

  1. Jan Miller

    Great interview! I love this girl! Very talented and passionate about her work, community and family!

    Reply

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