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Al Roker encourages journalism students to remain open-minded as they navigate college, career

Emmy Award-winning weatherman and longtime popular anchor spoke to ASU students Feb. 28


Al Roker speaking during student Q&A.

Al Roker, Emmy Award-winning weatherman and longtime popular anchor, spoke to ASU students Monday, Feb. 28.

March 04, 2022

Millions of Americans tune in every morning to watch NBC News’ Today, featuring Al Roker, Emmy Award-winning weatherman and longtime popular anchor.

But the path to success wasn’t always easy for Roker, the 2021 recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. He shared the ups and downs of his journey, as well as career advice with students at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication during a Q&A session Monday.

MORE: NBC News' 'Today' anchor Al Roker honored with 2021 Cronkite Award

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Roker said. “There have been a lot of high points, meeting people I never thought I’d get to meet and going places I never thought I’d get to go.”

Cronkite School seniors Faith Abercrombie and Nicole Shinn hosted the hourlong event in which Roker covered various topics, including diversity in the newsroom and work-life balance.

Early in the discussion, Roker provided tips about news delivery, and how to know whether it’s time for a jovial attitude or a serious temperament. Throughout his career, Roker has not only covered day-to-day conditions, but natural disasters like Hurricane Wilma and Superstorm Sandy.

“It’s all about the tone. Like anything, you have to read the room,” he said. “It’s something you learn over time.”

The Q&A session also included questions about race, with students asking about Roker’s experience coming up as a Black journalist at a time when people of color were not represented in the media.

“One of the things my dad told me early on was, ‘You’re going to have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as the white kid next to you,”’ he said. “I’ve always kind of worked that way.”

Roker, who said he was the first Black forecaster in most of the cities he worked in, acknowledged that newsrooms are becoming more diverse. However, he said things won’t get better until executives of media companies are more representative of the audience. 

“You’re starting to see that change,” he said. 

One student asked Roker how he maintains morale in the newsroom and how journalists can prevent themselves from being consumed by disheartening news. In response, Roker stressed the importance of maintaining a work-life balance. 

“It’s harder now. When I was your age, you finished work, you went home, and unless you turned on the TV at six or 11 o’clock, you didn’t hear anything. You were able to shut down. There’s got to be separation. You’ve got to turn things off,” he said.

Another student asked how Roker stays comfortable in front of a camera. 

“Just be yourself,” he said. “Give yourself time, and the more you do it, the more comfortable you get.”

Roker never set out to be on television, he said, but simply started forecasting the weather on weekends as a side hustle. He never imagined the position he would be in today, receiving the prestigious Cronkite Award.

“When I saw the email, I thought, ‘Is this real?'” he joked. “Is there another Walter Cronkite Award?”

Roker advised students to be open minded as they navigate through college and beyond. He encouraged underclassmen to take as many courses as they can in different subjects.

“Be as open to anything as possible. You may think you know what you want to do, but yet you don’t know what it is you’re going to do.”

To graduating students, he expressed a similar sentiment:

“When you get that first job, push to do as many different things as possible. Make yourself a utility player, so you can not only do weather, but you can go out and report. I would say try to be as well-rounded in journalism as possible, because it opens things up for you.”

Written by Olivia McCann

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