Stay Up-To-Date!


Archive for April 2024

Silhouettes profiles Saundra Weathers

Saundra Weatehrs

From Silhouettes, by Tiffany Razzano
Originally published April 19, 2024

As a high school student, Fort Lauderdale native Saundra Weathers decided on the car ride to tour Florida A&M University that she would study journalism. She wrote for her high school newspaper and had a natural interest in what was going on around her. “I don’t like to say nosy; I like to say curious. I was always very curious. I want to know more,” she said.
That’s how the Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter launched her news career. Admittedly, she wasn’t always a model student. “There’s a saying at FAMU; that it’s FAMU-ly and it truly is a family,” Weathers said. “I had some of my professors rein me in and say, ‘Listen girl, get it together.’”
Initially, she wanted to be an entertainment reporter. But after interviewing some celebrities, she realized she didn’t enjoy it. Then, thanks to one of her professors, she fell in love with hard news.
Weathers worked at FAMU’s radio station and an internship led to her being hired for an on-air television reporting job for WCTV, a CBS affiliate, during her junior year. “By that time there was no stopping me,” she said.
She stayed with the station for a few months after graduating before deciding it was time to move on. “If you know anything about living in a college town after you graduate, you feel so old,” she said. “It was time for me to go.”
“Before I graduated, I naively told my sister I was moving to Atlanta right out of college and getting a job in news,” Weathers said. “That was not true. So I was trying to figure out what was the most realistic path news wise and also near the water I love so much.”
She hoped one day to get to the Tampa Bay area, the largest market in Florida, but first she landed at WBBH, an NBC affiliate in Fort Myers. She worked there for two years covering four counties in Southwest Florida. “I knew I had to make a stop before” getting to Tampa, she said. But Tampa was “the No. 1 in the state. It’s where I wanted to be.”
Once her career hit the five-year mark, Weathers was hired by Spectrum Bay News 9 and she moved to Polk County. “It was very interesting. It’s great for news. You can’t even make it up the stuff that happens there. And there were great people in Polk County,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot to do, but workwise, it was fantastic.”
After about three years, she moved over to the media outlet’s main office in St. Petersburg to work the night shift. “That means covering everything from every single county,” she said. “Wherever the news happens, you go.”
She remained in that role until 2020, when she launched the Justice for All beat for Spectrum, focusing on issues of equity, inclusion and disparities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
During the protests surrounding Floyd’s murder, Weathers and her boss at the time “had long, hard conversations about the coverage and being intentional,” she said. “After some back and forth, I got the green light. I said, ‘Listen, I want to do these stories and do them in a way that makes a difference.’”
Weathers has always been drawn to social justice stories, but with this current beat, they’re her sole focus.
To start, she made a list of potential story ideas. But it wasn’t long before the stories were coming to her and members of the community were suggesting topics to cover.
One of her early stories focused on the arrests of Black children in the local juvenile justice system and how many were sent to adult prisons compared to children of other races. “The difference was astronomical,” she said.
She also focused on stories about representation in various fields, such as Black male educators. “I looked at the numbers and was astounded,” Weathers said.
She focuses on the good news too, she added.
She’s also been amazed by the action that’s been taken in the community because of her reporting. In one story, she looked at the reading scores of Black students, which were set back even further because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She recalls Spectrum creating a graphic around these scores that was widely shared on social media. This was gratifying for Weathers as she read the posts that accompanied these shares. The data backed up what many followers already seemed to know anecdotally. “It was like, ‘We’ve been saying this; now there’s the proof,’” she said. “When you have that type of reporting and so much response, it leaves so much opportunity for resolution.”
After that story came out, a number of organizations and individuals created reading programs “to try to close the gap for African American students,” she said, adding that it was “a real catalyst for change and people making a difference.”
Weathers has also reported extensively on Black maternal health, a topic that is “near and dear” to her. After airing a special on the issue last year, she received tremendous feedback from viewers in both the Tampa and Orlando areas.
“After it aired, a woman reached out to me and said, ‘Listen, I lost a child during birth. I already have a nonprofit, but I want to do more. This special was the kick I needed to do more,’” Weathers said.
Months later, the woman called back to say she launched an ongoing series of town hall meetings with health care and nonprofit leaders to discuss how to lower infant and maternal mortality rates in the Black community. “It led to this huge conversation in the Tampa Bay area,” Weathers said.
This year, the University of South Florida is even hosting a series of talks and other events, as well as offering mothers various resources, from April 11-17 for Black Maternal Health Week. “It’s really amazing to see how this conversation is now spreading like wildfire,” she said.
She’s touched by the momentum that stemmed from her stories. “I embrace my humanity in my reporting. I never try to tell a story as a robot. There is always a human behind that and I try to let that come out in my reporting. I’m not biased; I’m human,” she said. “I hope people feel that when they see that, that when they reach out to me, they know that’s coming from a place of someone who wants to help. I do this 100 percent to help people.”

Silhouettes profiles Holly Gregory

Holly Gregory

From Silhouettes, by Tiffany Razzano
Originally published Jan. 20, 2023

A native Midwesterner, Holly Gregory was born and raised in a small town. “A little bitty town in Illinois that is still exactly the same,” she said.
Her father, who grew up on a farm, was a corrections officer, and her mother, a teacher. “In fact, she was my fifth-grade teacher. That’s how small my town was,” the Bay News 9 evening anchor said. “Everybody knows everybody, and you’re probably related to about a third of them.”
As a child, Gregory didn’t show an early interest in journalism. Instead, she participated in Future Farmers of America. “I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a reporter,” she said.
Through the FFA, she became interested in farm reporting and “it evolved from there,” she said. “I’m a communicator and I was like, ‘I can do this. I like being on air.’ At the time, it was very much agriculture based.”
She studied radio and television at Butler University in Indianapolis before moving to New York City for her last two years of college. There, she attended Marymount Manhattan College. “I’d been in the Midwest my whole life and I had no idea what I was in store for,” she added.
Her professors all worked in the field with “great connections” and through one of them, Gregory was able to land an internship with journalist and television host Geraldo Rivera. His office was across the street from the CBS building, where he also filmed. “It was eye opening and interesting and crazy,” she said.
She spent so much time in the CBS building that whenever she had a free moment, she’d walk down to the CBS local news studios and introduce herself to the staff there. “I made some friends – you’d never be able to do that today,” she said. “I found some people to take me under their wing.”
Through these friendships at CBS, staff members helped her put together a professional-looking newscast reel in the studio. “I had this beginner TV tape that was the slickest thing you’ve ever seen in the No. 1 market,” Gregory said. “I’d sit at the desk doing what looks like what is a real report.”
She also worked part time at the New York Post as what was referred to one of “the copy kids.” This was before computers and email were prevalent in the office. “I would run hard copy around to the editors,” she said.
With her experience with the Post and Rivera and her slick demo tape, she applied to entry-level broadcast jobs all over the country, ultimately accepting her first full-time position at WGEM in Quincy, Illinois.
“New York was where I really got the news bug,” she said. “It made me realize this is what I want to do and also that I can’t start on camera in the No. 1 market.”
Gregory spent four years at WGEM before moving on to WHO TV, an NBC affiliate in Des Moines. “That was like reporter bootcamp,” she said. “Our news director, he didn’t pull any punches; you better get it right.”
There, she had the opportunity to cover the Iowa caucus, which is how she “got the bug” for covering politics.
Not a fan of divisive arguing, she quickly established a philosophy that was “a little different from other political reporters,” she said. “I’ve always been a general assignment reporter. I’ve always been more rounded and then I do politics. I’m more like your average person who does politics. My philosophy is to let them talk.”
Then, her husband’s company transferred him to Chicago for “a job he couldn’t turn down,” she said.
This was an opportunity for her to take the next step in her career, as well, but left her with some insecurities. “Am I able to make the job from Des Moines to the No. 3 market in the country?” she said.
For seven months, she knocked “on every door in” Chicago, Gregory said. “I’d talk to anyone who would give me the time of day to get my foot in the door.”
Then, on Christmas Eve, she received a call from a news director at CLTV – what she calls “the Bay News 9 of Chicago at the time.” The station had three staff members call out sick. “They told me, ‘We need somebody,’ and I said, ‘I’m your girl,’” she said.
She spent six years with the station, which eventually sistered with WGN-TV in that market.
“There’s no place like Chicago for covering news. It’s a trip,” Gregory said. “Until I came to Florida. That’s a whole different trip.”
In 2009, her husband was transferred to Tampa. During the family’s first three years in the area, she focused on raising their three young children.
But she missed journalism and knew she wanted to get back into it the field, taking a job as anchor/reporter with Bay News 9. “The rest has just been history here,” she said. “It was a fantastic move here, career wise.”
Since moving to Florida, she’s covered a range of stories that grabbed national attention – from the infamous Casey Anthony. Julie Schenecker and George Zimmerman trials to the Seminole Heights serial killer to the Republican National Convention to Hurricane Michael’s devastating hit to the Panhandle.
“You name any big story over the decade, and we’ve done it,” she said. “With Bay News 9, we go. If there’s a big story in the state, we’re going.”
Hurricane Michael is probably one of the more memorable stories she covered. “I was there for the duration – before, during and after,” Gregory added. “I’ve never done work like that since, as far as hurricane coverage. Calling it ‘unbelievable’ doesn’t do it justice. You just have to be there to see what it’s like. These were real stories and we got to talk to real people.”
She also covered Hurricane Ian’s recent battering of the Fort Myers area. “But after the fact,” she said. “It’s about getting these stories on TV and making people understand what happened.”
Over the past decade, as she’s covered the news, she’s seen firsthand how much the region has grown – “the population and the changing of how Tampa looks and home values,” she said. “When I first came here, everything had a foreclosure sign in front of it, it seemed like. The economics…have changed drastically since I first got here. Now it’s a bigger, more bustling, more developed city.”
Even with all these changes, she still loves her work and can’t imagine being a journalist anywhere else. “There’s still that openness, that certain something you can’t quite put your finger on about covering Florida news,” she said. “Everybody seems to be coming from everywhere else. It’s a melting pot within a melting pot and everyone has a story.”

Legal Ads – April 24

April 05 April 05 April 12 April 12 April 19 April 19 April 26 April 26
Artwork Submissions

Send camera ready art to:

Deadline for camera-ready artwork is 5:00 PM Tuesday!