Cheryl Wills: anchored in pride and commitment
Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:29 p.m.
And when the government said they knew no Sandy Wills, Ms. Emma hired herself a lawyer, "and she fought for his pension. There was deposition after deposition because they had the name wrong. But people came forward and said that they knew Sandy Wills. They said, 'We were at their wedding,' and 'I grew up with them.'"
She taps the huge file on the table proudly. "This is for all the descendants of slavery so that they can see."
The multi-award-winning journalist is as excited by her upcoming endeavor as she is her career.
"We don't do scandal at NY1," Wills smiles. "We stick to facts, and I'm happy about that."
While the "news is the news," she is no talking head, but her intent is to always "read the news straight" without bias or obvious inflection.
"When I was in college, I wanted to go into journalism because I love the structure and the mechanics of writing," says the graduate of the famed Newhouse School at Syracuse University. "When you're in broadcasting, it becomes a picture and sound story and writing becomes almost secondary."
That's one of the drawbacks, she says, laughing.
There are others.
"Journalists have to always look out, because it's easy to slip into a comfort zone and forget that you're supposed to be objective and just report the news. Now we're living in a medium where you become rich and famous by injecting your bias. I absolutely, categorically reject that. "I will never inject my opinion in to a story.
Passionately adamant and while certain recent current affairs stories aren't far from the conversation, Wills declared, "I don't care what witch hunt is going on, I am not going to take part with a snide comment. I am going to report it straight down the middle. You at home make your comments. But I'm not going to egg you on or try and incite you to anger. No, I'm not."
Take a Tiger Woods case, for example, "You know I'd say: 'Tiger Woods plans to hold his first press conference,' rather than, 'Oh, guess who's finally going to talk to the media?' It's very easy to do and you see it everyday, but here at NY1, we stay away from that opinionated type of reporting. And I'm glad to be here for that, for the general news hour after hour. I am pleased to be able to just report it as it happens rather than getting on the media bandwagon with these lynchings of people destroying their lives and careers with pieces of scandal and gossip."
The temptations may be apparent, but sidestepping is a talent to cherish in your arsenal.
"There's tremendous competition, but as a real reporter, you have to maintain the journalistic integrity that our profession was founded on," Wills proclaimed. "I am an African-American woman, and I'm so grateful for the journalists at the turn of the century who reported it as it was when there were all kinds of newspapers that were distorting the entire situation, saying they are freeing slaves and the slaves are going to come and get us. This shows you how important is responsibility to the people and that we must tell it to them straight. Don't inject your fears into the news; just report the news and people will come to their own conclusion."