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Ask Anything: 10 questions with WRAL Anchor Debra Morgan

WRAL Anchor Debra Morgan answers your questions about TV news.

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Debra Morgan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Debra wanted to answer more than 10 questions. You can read all of her responses below. Some of the questions are grouped by topic. 
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one of your Channel 5 peers, who would you like it to be and why? – Mike Franklin, Raleigh

Interesting question! Let me go down the list…

I'd be afraid to be stranded with Tom Suiter. I'm sure he would injure himself and we'd spend most of our time searching the island for a physical therapist instead of food and shelter.

Greg Fishel would be like The Professor on Gilligan's Island. We'd have a great shot at trying to communicate with someone far away to rescue us. I'm not sure there wouldn't be a mutiny after a few days of puns, but his sense of humor would certainly keep my spirits up.

Gerald Owens – forget it – he would leave me to go find somewhere to play golf!

I've been boating and fishing with Jeff Gravley and no doubt he would be the best one to build a boat so we could sail off the island. However, I've seen him show up back at the pier with fish in his boat but never actually seen him catch anything! If my suspicions about his "fish stories" are true, we may starve. But for getting off the island, he's the guy.

I'm sure Mike Maze, who loves to cruise, would find a way to summon one of his favorite ships to come pick us up.

David Crabtree is most likely the one to want to be stranded on an island with no phone, TV or Internet, so we would kick back and have a relaxing vacation. On the downside, he may never want to leave.

And, I know I'd have a blast with Pam Saulsby. If anyone could be stranded on an island while still being classy and in style, I'd count on her. I bet she even has the perfect flip flops!

Who is your boss? – Lyndia Boswell, Lucama

My boss is the kindest, most generous, intelligent, likeable, easy-going person I know! (In case he's reading this!) Actually, Rick Gall, our News Director, truly exhibits all those attributes.

Have you ever not read what was on the TelePrompTer on purpose? And along those lines, who has "the power"? The producers or the anchors? Thanks! – Michael, Raleigh

If I realize there's a grammar error or a factual mistake on the TelePrompTer, I will try to change the information on the fly. However, usually I go through every story before it goes on the air so mistakes don't happen. The producers, reporters, and anchors write what we report during the newscast, with the producers writing the majority of what we read. I take full responsibility for what I say on the air so I must feel comfortable with the wording and facts. To that end, I ask a lot of questions and read the background of the story to try to make sure we're reporting the most relevant, accurate information in the short time we have to tell the story.

Why are the drought restrictions not important news anymore? People seem to have forgotten how serious it really is. I have seen lots of people washing cars, kids squirting each other and people watering their yards! I have "reminded" my neighbors who I've seen washing their cars. But it seems to be widespread again. – Debbie Wright, Durham
It appears that with the recent rains filling the lakes back up, the interest in the drought waned. However, each Thursday we update the drought maps and our meteorologists often remind us about the dry conditions being far from over. In addition, we've gone along with the "water police" as they continue to write tickets to people not in compliance with the rules. Our coverage also includes reminders to find water restrictions in your area by going to the special drought section of WRAL.com.
While the rest of us look worse for the wear every year we age, you stay timelessly beautiful. You've probably been asked this a thousand times, but does your husband know he's a lucky guy? – Bob, Cary

Bob, thanks so much for the kind words! However, if you looked back 16 years ago to when I started here at WRAL, you might change your mind. And, when we switched to High Definition…Oh, boy!

By the way, I'm forwarding your letter to my husband right now.

I really enjoy watching you deliver the news. You have a way of keeping my interest and I appreciate your positive attitude as well. My question is this – why can't positive stories comprise the majority of the broadcast while negative stories like murders, robberies etc. be given the smaller amount of time? It seems to be the other way around these days. I really enjoy WRAL's positive stories, but just wish there were more of them. – Scott Worrell, Clayton

This is a question I hear often and I agree with you. It’s much more enjoyable for us to report on fun, light-hearted stories. It may seem hard to believe, but I’d say we do report on a greater number of positive stories than negative ones. I think we just tend to remember the negative ones more so.

We make a concerted effort at WRAL to not load up a newscast with crime stories. However, there are times when a story may be difficult to hear, but it’s important to pass along the information. Not doing the story, would be a disservice. For example, if a child molester is on the loose, I’d think most people would like to know who the person is and what he or she looks like.

Believe me, the recent reports we’ve aired on women missing in our area with tragic endings make my heart ache. But, in many cases, our hope is that we can help the community find a loved one, help the police bring someone to justice, and provide the viewers with a better understanding of what challenges we face in our community.

Where did you study broadcasting? Are you a Carolina girl, from the RTVMP dept.? How did you break into the business? Have you always been with WRAL? – Nina McCullock, Hurdle Mills

I’m a University of Miami grad with a double major in Telecommunications and Psychology. Some believe one helps you deal with the other!

I was the editor-in-chief of the UM newspaper and worked on the air doing the newscast for our cable station on campus. An invaluable part of my education was an internship at WPLG in Miami.

With resume and audition tape in hand, I started my journey as a professional journalist.

After a lot of rejections from TV stations all over the country (you learn to get a thick skin in this business), a news director in Toledo, Ohio, offered me my first job. From there, I moved to WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., before coming to WRAL as the weekend anchor in 1993.

How long are you planning on staying at WRAL? I hope until you retire! – Jonathan Johnson, Coats

I hope until I retire, too! That's a long way off when you're only 29 years old!

OK, you have the prettiest teeth I have ever seen. What kind of toothpaste do you use and do you whiten them? Don't mean any harm, but you are the reason I like WRAL. You are fun to watch the way you cut up with everyone. Just wondering. – Harry, Clayton

Good ole’ Crest, Harry! Glad you’re having fun along with us.

How many hours a day are spent at the newsroom? Also, do you have to pay for your own clothes? Do you all have a person on site who picks them out? Always wondered about these "important" things! You all do the best job of all. Thanks so much for doing such a fine job. Give your dogs a kiss for me!! How many do you have? I just gave my bassett hound one!! Thanks again. – Tom Pooley, Littleton
What is a typical day like for you as an anchor on WRAL? – Chuck Wade, Raleigh

I'm not sure I can even describe that for you, Chuck! Each day is different, and that's what's so exciting about my job.

But I suppose a typical day (without a lot of breaking news or working on special reports) would start with coming to work at about 2:30 each weekday afternoon. We have our staff meeting to discuss what the dayside (5pm, 5:30pm & 6pm newscasts) crews are covering and then what stories will be produced for nightside (10pm & 11pm newscasts). Of course, breaking news can trump all of our plans in an instant.

Our producers set the lineup of the stories, write most of what we read, and plan the timing of the newscast. I'll read, edit and possibly write the stories to which I'm assigned. I try to find out as much information about each story as possible. Once I’m finished going through the newscast from top to bottom, it's off to do my makeup and hair. Tom, many people “wonder” about this, too. We do our own hair and makeup and we choose our own wardrobe.

After the live newscasts, we record short news updates for your mobile phone and promos for the late news that air during prime time. After a dinner break, we then work on the 10pm and 11pm newscasts. Throughout the day, we spend a great deal of time answering e-mail, returning phone calls and gathering story ideas. The day ends with a post-newscast meeting and maybe replying to a few more letters.

Outside of my duties at the station, I usually spend a few days a week (prior to work, on weekends or over my dinner break) reading to school children, emceeing events, giving a speech or doing charity work. This is such a fulfilling part of what I do and I feel honored to be included in these wonderful events going on in our community!

 To read more of Debra's answers, scroll down ....



Read more "Ask Anything"



Are you married? If you are, how do you have time to spend time with you husband or maybe children (if you have any) when you travel so much. – Chrissy Holland, Micro
Are you married? With children, if so how many? Enjoy watching you! – Brenda Balazs, Garner
From last year's Christmas commercial, I saw that you had a couple of Labrador retrievers. What are their names? How old are they? Have you had them since they were puppies? – Richard Brewer, Raleigh
How difficult is it to juggle the unique work schedule you have with your family? – Mike C., Pikeville
How do you like to spend free time? Do you have a hobby? – Amy Kunkle, Garner

My husband, Scott, and I have been married for 19 years! We were high school sweethearts.

Our "children" have four legs and a tail: Bailey, a 7-year-old Black Labrador, and Harper, a 1-year-old Yellow Labrador. (You can see a picture of them here) Yes, we've had them since they were puppies. In fact, I held Bailey in my hands when she was just a day old! Friends of ours bred their Labs and were kind enough to let us visit her daily before we could take her home. We brought Harper home as a puppy, too.

You may also know our girls from my annual WRAL Christmas greeting doing their cookie trick! Plus, if you look closely, you’ll see them in our TV promotional ad running right now for the “Bad Dog!” series. Harper is in the “O” and Bailey runs across the screen delivering a newspaper.

As you can imagine, our free time involves a lot of playing with the dogs; taking them swimming, going for walks and for rides in the car. We usually only go on vacations where we can take them.

Okay, we're a little nutty about our dogs.

My husband is a pilot so, if we have the time, flying is a great stress reliever. I’m also in the middle of training for my second marathon. I ran my first one last year and loved it. (OK, that's probably stretching the truth a little – let's just say I was thankful I finished!)

As for time with the family, even though this business requires unusual schedules and long hours, my husband knows I love my work and we’re used to the unique time demands. After all of our years together, we find time to make it all work.



What is your favorite college sports team? You could lose a faithful fan, if the answer is not the correct one. – Pem Hawkins, Pine Level

When UM plays a local team (NCSU, UNC, Duke, etc.) are you still a 'Cane or do you cheer for the local school? Do you ever go watch UM when they're in town playing one of the local schools and are ya wearing orange and green??? – Sebastian Gables, Raleigh

I recall UNC winning the basketball national championship in 1993....you were there, reporting live from downtown, what a rush that must have been. – Jack Mullins, Raleigh

Where are you originally from and where did you go to college? – Rod, Oxford

Anytime after the sports has just finished for WRAL, you seem to always give a very logical insight on what someone has said. Are you a big sports fan? – Jacob Bowes, Raleigh

Oooh, tough question about my favorite college sports team! Even though I was born and raised in south Florida and graduated from THE University of Miami, I feel as though I'm now more connected with the Triangle college teams. Tom Suiter calls me a "homer" (I don't see that as a bad thing!) because I'll cheer for State over Miami, for example. I still want UM to do well, don't get me wrong. It was tough to take when Miami played ECU in 1999 (at Carter-Finley because of Hurricane Floyd), and lost after blowing a big half-time lead.

I'm a huge sports fan, especially when it comes to football (I grew up a diehard Dolphins fan), college basketball, hockey and soccer. Covering the UNC championships from Franklin Street in 1993 was my initiation into ACC basketball. I remember parents bringing their babies to the celebration so one day their children could say they were there! I'm thrilled to be able to say I was there, too. Quite a rush, you're right. It was just as fun to be a part of it again in 2005 for another national championship.

Following the Carolina Hurricanes to Edmonton and back for the Stanley Cup finals was another incredible highlight. So was seeing all the fans from the Triangle down in Jacksonville, Fla., when N.C. State beat up on Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl in 2003. Being able to sit on press row in Cameron Indoor to experience the Crazies and working with Coach K at the Children’s Hospital telethon are Duke memories I cherish.

I can honestly say I don’t have a favorite team among the local universities. We have so many talented programs in our area, it’s fun to sit back and watch the friendly rivalries!



How do you maintain your constant perky personality after all of these years with the same station? Seriously, you have a great place to work (love the others) and love the job you have maintained after all he years. I once lived and worked in the RTP area and now live at the beach, but still follow "your" news and updates (my daughter and granddaughter live in Cary). You help me make it through the day with a smile!!!! Thanks for all of your years of special service and deliverance to the community! – Margaret Collins, Supply

You are so beautiful! Your delivery of the news is sincere and comical when needed! Are you married? I know you have dogs! I appreciate your delivery of the news! Someone like CNN will probably snap you up soon! – Rhonda McNeill, Sanford

Debra, I have been enjoying watching you for 12 years very much so. What keeps you here in the Raleigh area? I am shocked that a larger market or big news channel has not pulled you away, but delighted that they haven't. – Jimmy Cholerton, Garner

Thanks for the very nice words, Margaret, Rhonda and Jimmy. Honestly, very few TV stations or networks offer what we have here at WRAL. Rarely a day goes by when I wake up and don't want to come to the station. I'm blessed that I'm paid to do what I love with people I enjoy being around.

The biggest compliment I receive is when people tell me I'm like a member of their family. When our viewers put that much trust in us, it's a responsibility I don't take lightly. Whether I'm reporting in times of crisis, such as in a hurricane, or having fun with a series, like the one I'm currently working on called Bad Dog!, I'm committed to being accurate, relevant and interesting.

WRAL's commitment to public service is as important to me as our dedication to quality newscasts. And our public service goes beyond the station walls. Many of us volunteer with several organizations around the Triangle. I’ve been privileged to work with a number of charities in our community for many, many years. If you'd like to see a few near to my heart, please visit my bio page.



I am interested in becoming a news reporter when I graduate from college, but I also want to make a good amount of money. How much does an average reporter make and what kind of qualities do they look for? – Liz Kloster, Raleigh
As a child growing up, did you have visions or did you know that you wanted to be a journalist and a news anchor? – Jeanne Hall, Durham
What advice would you give to high school students who are interested in a career in broadcast journalism? – Alice, Raleigh

To be honest, reporters don't make much money right out of college. Usually, in order to gain experience, you start in a small market and work your way up. How much you make depends on the city you're in, the station's place in the market, and how much experience you have. When I went from my first to my second job, my salary almost doubled! Of course, when you start out making peanuts, that's not saying much, but when you change jobs, you often earn more. If your motivation for choosing this profession is to make a lot of money, you may be disappointed.

Important qualities include being a good storyteller, a good writer, working under deadline pressure and communicating quickly and effectively. On the TV side of the news business, often the challenge is being able to take a hefty amount of information and narrowing it down to a minute or so. It's not easy. But the immediacy of being able to report information as it's happening, can be exciting and rewarding.

My love of journalism started in the 10th grade. In my high school, we didn’t have newscasts or videotaped morning announcements, so I started writing for our newspaper, the Pony Express. I'd highly recommend students do the same. When you start out working on a newspaper, you can interview people, learn to write, figure out how to gather facts without the pressure of having to then deliver them on camera. That delivery can come later once you have some of the journalism basics down.

And read, read, read!



I love your hair, who does it? Also are you married? I enjoy watching you on TV. Thanks – Vickie, Fuquay-Varina
Where do you get your hair styled? It always looks great. – Michelle Ward, Rougemont
I just wonder who your hairstylist is. I really like your new hairstyle. Hope not to personal. – Becky Brantley, Raleigh
Who does your hair? – Richard Burton, Cary
I love your new hair cut! Who does your hair? – Tammie S. Pollard

Thanks for the kind words! This is probably the one topic I receive more e-mail about than any other. My hairdresser for many years now, Dianne Hargrove, tries her best to help me keep my look updated and to convince me she’s coloring my hair just for the studio lights.

Bless her heart…we both know better! 



Have you ever found a story almost too difficult to report in a professional manner? – Charlie Franks, Raleigh
What news story in your career sticks out and why? – Bryan Ford, Raleigh
Do you find yourself becoming emotionally involved in some of the news stories that you report during the news and if so, is it difficult to substain yourself as you do the news? – David, Cary
Outside of the normal pressures and deadlines that one would expect, what ranks highest for difficulty as a news reporter? What is something that someone not in journalism might not see or consider that impacts you at WRAL? – David Stanley, Apex
Debra, you do a great job reporting the news for WRAL. How do you contain your emotions when reporting very sad stories? Thanks. – Jo, Sanford
Of all the stories that you have covered since you've been here, are there one or two that really stand out in your mind? In what ways did they affect your life? – Liz Moore, Durham
With the constant battery of news, whether good or bad, how do you keep from showing your personal feelings and emotions from being noticed by the general viewer audience? You and your entire team show up every day with smiles and cheerfulness. What's your secret? – Chris, Raleigh

What great questions.

By far, the most difficult day of my career was Sept. 11. You may remember, CBS News was in continuous coverage that day, but WRAL broke in every half-hour for five minutes to update what was happening locally. At one point, in the early afternoon, it was my turn to do what we call the "cut-in." Just as we broke from the live network coverage, a person jumped from one of the buildings. The desperation and incredible sadness brought immediate tears to my eyes. But suddenly, I was on TV. All of us cried that day, but I had to try to compose myself to talk. I started with an apology.

Beyond the enormous sorrow we all felt so deeply throughout our community that day, I also took away something meaningful as a journalist. Several people wrote to me appreciating that I showed my true feelings on the air. To this day, when I'm delivering a touching story and you notice it's affecting me, I hope you see me as a professional journalist while at the same time as someone who cares and is moved by a story just as you are. I think we can be both.



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