Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Black History Month.
Christine Sperow (ABJ ’98) currently works as a news anchor for Fox 5 Atlanta. Before arriving at Fox 5, she was an anchor at WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, KLTV in Tyler, Texas and WABG in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Grady College in 1998 with a degree in journalism and was a member of the UGA women’s volleyball team. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and National Association of Black Journalists. Her work at WBTV earned numerous Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards, RTDNAC Awards and NABJ Awards.
Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.
One challenge I faced before my career even started, was not being able to break into the news business upon graduation. I had it all planned out in my head: finish up my final Grady requirement completing the Communication Law course, walk the stage, get my ABJ degree, then I would land an on-air job by summer! Everything happened… except the latter. I labeled and mailed resume tapes (I’m dating myself – yes, I literally mean VHS tapes) to stations all over the country and didn’t even get a call back. Reality set in and I quickly learned this was going to be a grind. I decided to take a job at one of the local radio stations in Atlanta. I never imagined starting my career in radio but committed to learning about the industry – not only the on-air side but also the business side, working as an assistant to the sales manager. After three years of working my way up the ladder, I decided to give it another try finding a job as a reporter. At this point I was three years removed from graduation and didn’t have “fresh” material to send to news directors. So I recorded myself reading news copy in one of the radio station’s audio booths, I taped a black and white photo of myself on each CD (so the hiring manager would know what I look like) and prayed someone would be inclined to give me a chance. I later received a call from a news director in Greenville, Mississippi. I was so excited to get a call back! I drove 420 miles to the interview, accepted the job offer and left the big city of Atlanta for market 186 to become a bureau reporter for WABG-TV. The rest, as they say, is history! December 31 of this year will mark 20 consecutive years in the business for me.
What clubs and activities did you participate in at UGA and Grady that were instrumental to your success as a career professional?
I have fond memories of working the production side of the Newsource student broadcasts at Grady College. The hands-on experience was so valuable because we all got the opportunity to play different behind-the-scenes roles. I was technical director, camera operator, audio operator, production manager. Back then b-roll was edited on tape. I remember loading and cueing up the tapes, waiting for my cue from the director over headsets to play the video. I could remember larger-than-life David Hazinski supervising the whole process of marrying the responsibilities of the broadcast journalism majors and telecom majors to put on an error free newscast (or as close to error free as possible). It was very rewarding to see a newscast come to life from start to finish. At UGA, I was also juggling being a student athlete as a member of the women’s volleyball team. I learned a lot of life lessons through athletics: work ethic, overcoming obstacles, humility, having the right attitude, achieving goals. Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was also time I would look forward to on Sunday nights. Growing up in the church and having this outlet to fellowship with other believers was truly a blessing. College could be a confusing time as you’re navigating through your walk with Christ, expectations of the world and what your future will be after college. FCA was a great opportunity to be around college-aged peers who are going through similar experiences while being reminded God is in control.
What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?
Personally, we are forever indebted to those who came before us. Those who bravely and, in many cases, risked or lost their lives to speak out against injustices and inequality. I don’t take lightly the fact that I stand on the giant shoulders of civil rights leaders and those who caused “good trouble” to speak to the conscience of our society. My station recently highlighted the work of one woman who didn’t sit back quietly but spoke up back in the 1960s about the lack of Black journalists on air at the very station I work for today in Atlanta. Xernona Clayton’s words opened the eyes of the news executives back then to make a change. In 1967 that change would begin with executives giving Ms. Clayton her very own television show. Today, black women including myself anchor several of the high profile newscasts here at Fox 5 Atlanta. Dr. King rightly said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Seeing the recent movement and reckoning here in America, the diverse faces of people marching peacefully on behalf of Black and Brown lives was so inspiring. Change is going to take all of us. No matter our backgrounds we must all speak up.
How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?
The internet and social media! No question. When I graduated from Georgia in 1998 the new trend gaining hype was this thing called Hotmail. You can send someone a message electronically and they would receive it almost immediately! (So what was I supposed to do with my pager?) Fast forward to today, my, oh my, how things have changed with the advancement of the internet and social media. Today people aren’t just getting their news from the television. The first place we go to now to get information is the internet, and we’re likely picking up our cell phone to search online — not the remote control. It was in the 2010s when television stations really started incorporating the social media and internet element into the news business. As reporters and anchors, we had to learn a new skill set to reach a digital audience.