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 Lisa Nicole Matthews, the 114th President of The National Press Club and a 20-year-plus veteran of the Associated Press, currently serving as Assignment Manager of U.S. Video. In that role she implements AP’s video and audio newsgathering efforts across Washington, including coverage of the White House, Congress and Cabinet Agencies. She assigns staff coverage of live, planned and spot news events. Matthews also oversees and directs crews across the country in coordination with regional news directors to deliver spot and regional coverage. She also coordinates international client requests and works in tandem with AP’s London video desk on story coverage.
In 2014, Matthews took a short step away from news gathering and joined the world of public relations to help clients tell their story. She served as vice president at Hager Sharp where she developed media strategy for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, National Diabetes Education Program, the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, National Alliance on Mental Health and others. She returned to the Associated Press in 2017.
During her career in journalism, she has received two Edward R. Murrow Awards – one in 2002 for outstanding coverage of the events on September 11, 2001, and in 2010 for Video Continuing Coverage of the Economy. She also received the AP’s Oliver S. Gramling Spirit Award for service to clients in 2004.
Matthews is a graduate of James Madison University where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1990.
Lisa, why did you go into news?
I always wanted to be a news anchor. As a child I loved reading and making presentations. I was on the debate/forensics teams in grade school. I’ve loved the news since I was able to imitate Dan Rather delivering the CBS Evening News.
What would have been your second career choice?
I didn’t have a second choice. I always knew I wanted to work in news.
Where did you get your start?
My first paid gig was a work-study during my sophomore year at James Madison University. I anchored morning drive and covered general news for National Public Radio affiliate WMRA in Harrisonburg, VA, during the school year, through my senior year. After graduation, I volunteered everywhere in the D.C. area – WETA-TV, National Public Radio, WMMJ Majic 102.3 FM/WOL1450AM before landing at Standard News – now Salem Broadcasting – in Washington.
What type of stories move you the most?
I love, love, love politics! Before I made it to D.C., I covered Virginia’s 1989 gubernatorial race between Marshall Coleman and Doug Wilder. It was a terrific assignment. Coleman made multiple visits to the Shenandoah Valley and I was lucky enough to be sent out to cover him. I even had the chance to interview Virginia Senator John Warner who hosted a fundraiser for Coleman on his farm. After graduation, Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga, – known as Phyllis Crockett when she worked at National Public Radio – took me under her wing and allowed me to interview former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn on Capitol Hill. One of my first interviews at Standard News was with former Kansas Senator and GOP leader Bob Dole. I remember thinking how cool it was to talk to these people who literally had a hand in making the country work.
What are the best and worst parts of the job?
The best parts of the job are being involved in breaking news and the people I work with. The worst parts are not being on the job. I’m lucky to love what I do. News gets in your blood and doesn’t let go. I have a natural interest in knowing what’s going on and sharing what I learn. I find the rise of click bait annoying. Lighter stories are fine, but they are meant for the back half of a newscast.
Who are your media role models?
Dan Rather. I decided that I wanted his job when I was in high school. I thought he was just the best at delivering the news. There weren’t many Black female faces reading the headlines when I was growing up, but I was fascinated by Carol Simpson. Her voice was unique and she was never afraid to smile. More recent favorites include Lester Holt, Soledad O’Brien, Bill Whitaker, Brian Williams and the late Gwen Ifill.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the media going forward?
One of the biggest challenges for the news media might be reconnecting with the public it serves and survival in general. After years of being referred to as the enemy of the state, a huge trust gap exists.
What do you enjoy doing when not at work?
Saturdays are dedicated to Looney Toons and Scooby Doo. I love to travel. My Mom and I visit Aruba annually – usually for Mother’s Day week.