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 Sherrie Johnson, known locally for her roles at WTTG Fox 5 in D.C. and at Baltimore’s WMAR-TV. She was with Stafford County Public Schools as Director of Strategic Communications and Community Engagement and is now with Prince William County Government as the Director of Communications. Sherrie is currently working on a webinar and online class on life after television news.

Hi Sherrie, what are you doing now?

Currently, I am the Director of Communications for Prince William County Government.

How did you get your start?

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in Mass Communications and Journalism. Upon graduation, I landed a job at WITN-TV, a television station in Washington, North Carolina, as an associate producer. I shadowed reporters for several months and eventually, a full-time reporter position opened and I was promoted to reporter. Several months later, the weekend anchor position opened and I was promoted to weekend anchor. Three years later, I went to WLOS-TV as a reporter, followed by WBRE in Pennsylvania as a Weekend Anchor/Reporter, followed by Washington, D.C., as a freelance reporter at Fox News Channel and WTTG Fox 5. After a year of freelancing, I went to WMAR in Baltimore, Maryland, as a general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor. After 13 years in Baltimore, I decided on a career change and went into public relations. I left television for a position with Harford County Government as a public information officer for the county executive. I left there and went to Prince George’s County Public Schools as a public information officer. I left and went to Stafford County Public Schools as the Director of Strategic Communications and Community Engagement.

Why did you want to go into the news?

I enjoy telling stories. I like providing a voice for the voiceless. I like working with folks who may not otherwise have someone to tell their stories. In the news business, every day was different and that is exciting. You never know what will happen as you make your way into the office. Breaking news was the best. It was exciting and full of adventure. I also enjoyed working with celebrities and notable public figures.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best part of the job is when you can help people and provide assistance. For example, after a live shot, a woman walked up to me and said she had no heat in her home and she had three small children. I covered the story and we were able to get her a new apartment, and the mayor stepped in to ensure the landlord had heat for the entire apartment building. This was a great day because I was able to use my platform to help others. The worst part of the job is covering tragedies and death, especially with children. It is also tough when you must interview families after they have experienced a tragic loss. This was the worst part of the job.

Who have been your role models?

Carole Simpson with ABC Network news was a role model. She was a great journalist. She was intelligent, poised and a respected journalist. She was a moderator for debates and a high-profile reporter/anchor. She was one of the first African American women to host a weekend news program on the network level.

What stories moved you the most?

Stories about families, children and people that overcame obstacles to beat the odds.

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

The biggest challenge for the media is to hold on to public trust. The media has taken a hit lately and some folks do not trust the media or the information that the press provides. Moving forward, it is important to regain the public trust and continue to provide accurate and timely information to keep people informed and safe. It is important to move away from the “fake news” narrative.

What would have been your second career choice?

I am currently enjoying my second career choice in public relations and communications. I went on to obtain a Master of Arts degree in communications and a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership. I have taken the skills that I learned as a journalist to another level with communications and leadership.

What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I am currently working on a webinar and online class with information on life after television news. I hope to have the online class available by summer for those that are wondering about making the leap and change in career after years as a journalist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.