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 Jennifer Davis, an Emmy-winning journalist who spent about 12 years as an on-air, full-time freelance reporter working in D.C. newsrooms providing reports to the affiliates of networks and ownership groups nationwide – including Fox NewsEdge, CNN Newsource, Hearst TV and others – and at Fox 5 in D.C. She received her Masters in Broadcast Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism and did her undergrad at the University of Michigan.

Jennifer, what are you doing now?

I am blessed to have two really wonderful jobs. I run my own communications, corporate coaching and content company called Jennifer Davis Media Group. In this role, I’m a communications coach for executives and I provide a wide variety of corporate content – written and video – with a focus on storytelling.  I am also COO, Executive Writer & Director of Strategy at Laura Evans Media, a progressive PR company in D.C that is focused on amplifying solution stories and supporting change makers. In that role, I serve as a support to CEO and founder Laura Evans and I do strategy, storytelling work and writing for our clients.

Where did you get your start?

My first on-air TV job was in Amarillo, Texas, at KAMR-TV. I was there just under a year and it was an amazing first job. It’s in the panhandle of Texas so I learned to do all sorts of fun things in the Lone Star state like ride a horse and rope a cow. I also had my first really big and amazing break in that market. There was one woman who had covered the courts for a long time for the station and the day she left, our News Director told me to go down to the courthouse and see if anything was going on. I went and discovered that a lawsuit had just been filed against Oprah Winfrey by the Texas cattle industry and that led to one of the most interesting stories of my career.

Oprah came to Amarillo for the trial and I covered every minute of it. Our station was the affiliate that carried her show, which was another lucky break, because when she won, she invited a network reporter and a Chicago reporter on her show to talk about the case. She also wanted a local Amarillo reporter so she reached out to my news director, since our station carried her show, and he sent me to be a guest on her show.

Oprah introduced me at the start of the show by sharing that for the last six weeks she’d seen me do the 8:25 am cut-in during the Today Show every morning. She said when I would pop on the TV she’d yell – ‘Jennifer’s on. Gotta go!’ and she and her team would all pile into the car and head to the courthouse. When I interviewed for jobs after that, every News Director I spoke with remembered her saying that and I swear it got me my next job at the NBC station in Albuquerque.

Why did you go into news?

It’s something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I was always the kind of kid who asked a million questions – driving everyone around me crazy. I initially wanted to be a newspaper reporter and my dream was to work at The Washington Post. But I applied for an internship there every year in college and got turned down every time. The first internship I got instead was at CNN. I’d never really thought about working in TV before that, but when I saw how adding pictures and sound to your words brought stories to life, the storyteller in me was hooked.

What would have been your second career choice?

I never had a second career choice. I ALWAYS wanted to be a reporter and knew that was what I was going to do since I was a kid. I had a bunch of goals set in terms of which market size I wanted to hit by which age and when I wanted to get back to D.C., which is my hometown, to start reporting. I reached all of those goals and then spent more than a decade traveling the country as a freelance network affiliate service reporter. So my news career was everything I wanted it to be and more.

My challenge was always that I never had a second career choice. I never thought of anything beyond news. Reporting felt less like a job and more like a part of who I was. I really had no idea what would come after TV news. So when daily reporting started to become less and less fulfilling, I had no idea what would come next. I couldn’t imagine that anything would be as satisfying as the career I’d spent my whole life focused on. That’s why this chapter in my life is such a blessing. I’m so grateful I found my way to a second career that is better and more fun than anything I ever imagined.

What are the best and worst parts of what you do now?

There are so many best parts right now. I’m doing so many of the things that were the favorite parts of my news career too – meeting new people all the time, interviewing them, hunting for stories and getting to tell those stories in creative ways.

I love how positive the work is that I do now. The last few years of my TV news career were mostly focused on the negative. There was so much death, loss, crime and anger as people squared off around various issues. It was increasingly weighing me down and leaving me really unfulfilled. Now, my work is so positive because the content I create is focused on thought leadership, building awareness around important issues and telling great stories, so I’m very grateful for that.

The other best part of my job is the people I work with and interact with all day. I have wonderful clients who I get to talk with and collaborate with all day long. Working with Laura Evans is as good as it gets too. We met while we were both at Fox 5 and have been friends for a long time but it’s been such a wonderful discovery to see how well we work together outside of news too. Our skills complement each other really well, we communicate in a really authentic and honest way, she’s such an incredible support to me and I strive to be the same for her. We are also very aligned in our goals of doing purposeful work and making sure we balance that with motherhood and life. It’s a collaboration I’m so thankful for.

I never thought I would enjoy a job as much as I loved TV news but I can honestly tell you I am happier and more fulfilled with my career now than ever before. My work and my days have a positivity and a balance that I always craved but consistently lacked too.

The worst part hands down is the accounting and invoicing that’s required of a small business owner. I’m a words person, not a numbers person so that is my biggest struggle. I’m getting better every year but it’s still challenging and my least favorite part of the work I do.

Who have been your role models?

My parents. My Mom is the person who has always made me think I can do anything I put my mind to. She is as supportive as they come, has always cheered me on and is an excellent problem solver so I always lean on her to help me figure things out. Through the years I’d often call her sitting in a live truck while I was waiting for my story to get edited. That means I called her from some crazy places. From the start she was struck by how weird and wacky a lot of those stories were and early on, while I was still in Amarillo, she started keeping a little book where she’d fill out a page each time I called with one line about what I was covering that day or something crazy I shared. When I left TV news, she gave me the book and it’s amazing. It really encapsulates my career in a pretty incredible way.

My Dad is my work role model. We’re in completely different industries. He’s a tax attorney. But he is the kindest person you will ever meet and he’s always exemplified to me that you absolutely can get ahead in life and be kind while you do it. Whenever I run into someone who knows him they always say – your Dad is just the most wonderful person – and then they tell me how he helped or supported them. Often people share stories I’ve never heard because my Dad doesn’t brag in any way. He’s got the best work advice too for anything that comes up. I’ve gone to him every step of the way my whole career to figure out how to navigate difficult moments.

What stories moved you the most?

As a TV reporter I’ve always loved feature stories. I love the quirky, silly, unexpected story that ends up as the kicker of a newscast and makes you feel something. That was always my favorite – to tell and to watch. I love stories where something surprising or unexpected happens to someone and I love stories involving kids. Multiple times in my reporting career I would challenge myself to tell a story from a child’s perspective – with the parent’s approval of course. I did it once with a boy who was in a huge crowd waiting for a group of military members to return home after a long-time abroad. He was waiting for his Dad and I still remember that boy and what it was like to put the camera at his eye level, tune out everyone else in the crowd and just watch his reactions and talk to him about what he was feeling. I just love stories like that where you see the world from a different perspective.

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

I think there’s a re-set that needs to take place to get back to a more widespread focus on storytelling. I think there’s an over-reliance right now on breaking news or calling everything breaking news, covering everything live with talking heads and having two sides square off on an issue. Laura and I believe there’s a great interest in more nuance – more positive, solution-focused stories and more storytelling. People want to see good stories and we work really hard to get those kinds of stories out into the world.

What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

Spending time with my family. I have two children and one of the biggest benefits of being an entrepreneur for me is having control over my schedule and flexibility to spend my time the way I want to spend it as a Mom. I also love being outside, going for walks, reading and pre-pandemic we traveled a ton. I’m looking forward to resuming that too.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I went to the University of Michigan for my undergrad degree so I’m a huge Michigan fan. Go Blue! I love the beach and try to get there whenever I can and while I’m not a great cook, I am a really good baker.

 

 

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