We’re elated to have New Orleans on-air journalist and author, Sheba Turk, returning to the 2018 ESSENCE Festival as Saturday’s host of our ESSENCE Empowerment Stage.
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In addition to keeping the NOLA community up on everything they need to know every weekday morning as a news anchor for local CBS affiliate WWL-TV, the 29-year-old southern belle is also using her platform to help other young people find their paths by sharing her story in a new book titled, Off Air: My Journey To The Anchor Desk.
We caught up with Sheba ahead of her ESSENCE Festival return to find out more about her book, her journey and why she says ESSENCE Fest is the perfect compliment to her hometown. Scroll through to check out 9 things we learned and then be sure to download the official ESSENCE Festival app to stay updated on where you can catch Sheba during Festival’s daytime experiences at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
See you in NOLA!
She originally had plans to pursue a career in the medical field after graduating from college.
“Finally, when I gave up on trying to do pre-med, I accidentally stumbled into this journalism class.”
Soledad O’Brien was a mentor of hers who also helped pay for her to finish college after convincing her to go into broadcast journalism.
“I met a wonderful mentor who convinced me to get into broadcast journalism. With the help of my mentors—one of whom was Soledad O’Brien, who paid for me to finish college— I got an internship at CNN in New York.”
She originally attended NYU, but ended up graduating from the University of New Orleans, which ultimately led to her first job in journalism.
“I was going to NYU, but, I ran out of money for school and then I came back home to the University of New Orleans and ran out of money again. That’s when Soledad paid for me to finish, which ultimately landed me back in New Orleans to graduate from college here. I then got a job behind the scenes writing for a newspaper here.”
She had a goal of becoming a morning show anchor before she was 30, which she achieved when she was 24.
“They wanted me to be a traffic reporter. I didn’t want to do traffic but, I took the job and would be a news reporter in my free time until I got good enough for them to recognize that I could actually do it. Within the span of two years, they moved me from behind-the-scenes writing, to traffic reporter, to morning show reporter. And then one of the anchors got pregnant, the deal wasn’t working out and she left and I became a morning show anchor.”
She wrote her book, “Off Air” after learning that many of the young women who follow her on social media were interested in her journey to building a successful career in broadcast journalism.
“I wrote the book was because I love talking to young people and so many young women were reaching out to me, asking about my story and asking, ‘how did you break into this business?’ They had all these questions about stuff that I had just gone through and figured out so, I was constantly writing e-mails, Instagram messages and tweets to answer them and I was also writing graduation speeches where I would share my story. One day I was like, “Well, maybe this is a book if I write down the whole story and everything I’ve learned.”
Off Air also has plenty of gems in it for young people pursuing careers industries outside of media.
“Outside of people who are not into journalism, I really talk about just being a young person and figuring out your journey. How you have to be honest with yourself, not compare yourself to others, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and all that crazy stuff that I really think throws you off track from reaching your full potential.”
The book walks aspiring journalists through what it’s really like to work in the media industry as a broadcast journalist.
“I go through everything. How I struggled to negotiate my first contract and to value myself; how I still struggle to do that now and what it’s really like to work in this business. So many people think it’s glamorous because we’re on TV and have no idea what we actually do in a day, especially the parts of it that are hard that you don’t think anyone would have to deal with.”
Her first national television appearance was hosting the PBS American Grad special alongside mentor, Soledad O’Brien, in 2017.
“She brought me on to [the PBS special] in 2017 and that was my first national TV appearance. Hopefully I’ll be back this year!”
She’s beyond excited to be returning as host of the Festival’s ESSENCE Empowerment Stage on Saturday and appreciates what the Festival brings to the city.
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