I don’t have an exact count.
Technology changes in our newsroom since 2006 have made it impossible to complete an accurate archive search. And I stopped keeping a log years ago. There just hasn’t been enough time.
But I estimate I’ve profiled more than 200 local “Newsmakers.”
There are several threads running through each story in addition to each person “making news.”
Each piece has been difficult to research; each has been difficult to shoot, write and edit; and each has been tough to set up mainly because the people I’ve featured have been so busy.
But then again, this challenge is appealing to me. And it’s been some of my favorite work.
It started at a turning point in my career.
Each news anchor at WGHP is required to do more than just deliver the news in the studio every night. We’re expected to go out and produce content. I’ve never complained because I believe the best news anchors are also the best reporters.
At WGHP (as many of you know), I’ve been a general assignment reporter, consumer/investigative reporter (remember “Contact 8?”) and Wednesday’s Child producer.
But by the mid-2000s, I was ready for a change.
In 2005, Nido Qubein, already a successful business executive and internationally-recognized motivational speaker, became president of High Point University. A day or two after his appointment, one of our newsroom managers suggested I interview him.
But it wouldn’t be an ordinary news story.
We’d shoot it with two cameras. One would be pointed at me to record my asking him questions. The other would record Dr. Qubein’s answers. I also convinced the newsroom managers and producers to give me some extra time to air the piece in our 10 p.m. newscast.
The result was something exciting.
Having five or slightly more minutes to tell Dr. Qubein’s story (which included a brief biography) allowed me to share much more about how and why he was “making news” than if we had aired it in the typical newscast story format of less than two minutes.
This was also not unlike the “60 Minutes”-style of television journalism: the extended, edited, long-interview pieces that have helped make that CBS News program the longest-running TV news magazine show in history. 60 Minutes is still my favorite show on television.
During the next 18 months, I got to thinking. Why not make this style of reporting my next big contribution to our newscasts? The management team liked it. I remember then-General Manager Karen Adams asking, “Why don’t we call it Newsmakers?”
The name stuck. And not long after, I was with Dr. Qubein again. Only this time we were strolling through the campus of High Point University a year-and-a-half into his presidency as he explained how his efforts were generating the most spectacular transformation of a local campus I had seen.
That piece marked my first report under the “Newsmakers” title. Since then, I’ve had the honor to meet and profile some of this area’s brightest, successful and inspirational people.
HondaJet CEO Michimasa Fujino recalled for me how one night while lying in bed he came up with the idea of a small jet aircraft with the engines mounted above instead of below the wings. He turned on his bedside light, scribbled an image of this plane on the back of a calendar, and the rest is history.
Patrick Douthit grew up in a modest home in the Midway community of Davidson County. He eloquently explained to me how listening to some of the first hip-hop music in the public housing projects of Winston-Salem propelled him to become “The 9th Wonder,” the recording artist who’s among the most respected and popular rappers, producers and teachers of that genre today.
There are many others— too many to mention here. But each had his or her own unique, complex, compelling and “newsworthy” story.
On Thursday night of this week (March 3), I’ll feature Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo, who, during the last month, became the public face of the response to what was among the most complex emergencies in that city’s history, the Weaver Fertilizer Plant fire.
After all this time, I haven’t run out of local newsmakers to feature. And I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon.
Oh, and by the way, I’m still not keeping count. There’s still not enough time!
– Neill McNeill, evening news anchor
Catch Neill McNeill’s interview with Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo on FOX8 at 10 p.m. on Thursday.