It’s Monday and that means it’s time for another Global Lipstick media interview. Today we got to interview Philadelphia Fox29 producer, Berlinda Garnett. Berlinda was born and raised in Philadelphia. She got her first bite of the journalism bug from her father. “He would always have my sister and I read the newspaper and ask, “How would you make this story different? What would you change to make it more positive?” That’s what has really shaped my career. I always attempt to showcase the positive stories, especially in our (African American) community.”
While in high school, Berlinda was introduced to journalistic principals and participated in a program with Pulitzer Prize winning Philadelphia Inquirer editor, Acel Moore. She became captivated by the journalism professionals who volunteered their time to speak and participate in the program. She then attended Temple University and graduated with a degree in journalism. From Temple, she interned with CBS 10, working with Edie Huggins part-time as well as Vanguard Group. She gained enough experience to land a job with CNBC. While there, she was a booker, then became a field producer and stayed for three years. But Philly was a calling and she returned to help shape a then new Fox 29 Philly Good Day Philadelphia. 18 years later, with an Emmy award under her belt, she’s still going strong as the producer for the Investigations and Special Projects Unit.
There’s no doubt about it – Miss Berlinda has it going on. But during our chat, there were some things we were surprised to learn. Still, this was another great #MediaMonday conversation.
Global Lipstick: What is the “Special Projects Unit”?
Berlinda Garnett: I work on project stories. For example, a few months back there were a lot of kids committing suicide and people wanted to know why. So, that was my project. I went out and interviewed the father who had just lost his little girl. I asked him questions to try to get into his state of mind and how life has been after the fact.
I also did a special called “Black on Black”, which I won an Emmy for. This idea came about from the mayor discussing the number of African American males killing themselves and other African American males. So, rather than to have speculation as to why this is going on, I thought, “why not ask the source?” That way we can ask what’s on their minds and how this problem can be fixed. You’d be surprised how easily a problem can be solved just by asking people to talk about it. I put a group of Black men in a room and just had a discussion. The special was only supposed to be three minutes. It turned out to be half an hour and we had over 95,000 viewers, which was awesome.
GL: How did it feel to win an Emmy for that piece?
BG: It felt amazing! But I didn’t even attend the ceremony (laughs). I had been nominated before and didn’t win so I just thought well…
It wasn’t even about an Emmy win. It was about getting a story out that is fundamentally a simple idea but rarely seen and can really educate my audience.
GL: Take us through a day in the life of Berlinda.
BG: It all depends. Right now I’m filling in on Good Day Philadelphia as the producer because our regular is out on maternity leave. That means I’m looking for segments to book. Right now I have 2,266 emails of people pitching stories. I go through all of my pitches. Whatever I like, I take the ideas to the morning meeting and we discuss execution. From there, I’ll write up a lead in for the segment or story, find all my necessary video and come up with suggested questions for the guest. Basically I’m getting any and everything together for my segments and trust me – it’s never boring!
Now if I’m wearing my “Special Projects Unit” hat then I’m doing everything a news reporter would do. I find and set up the story. Go out and do the interview. Come back to the office log and transcribe the tape. Then I analyze all of my copy and look for the one or two lines that speak to me. There are always those one or two key lines that jump off the page at me. That strategy always works for me and has allowed me to create some great pieces.
GL: What stories are you looking for during sweeps?
BG: Many people have the mentality “if it bleeds it leads” but that’s not always the case. Sometimes what leads is just a really compelling story where someone has overcome something traumatic in their lives.
I also try to find stories that will educate people on things that you may be familiar with but never really thought about in detail. For example, I interviewed a young lady who at the age of 14 ended up being put into the system because she came to the aid of her younger brother that was being bullied. She turned 18 and was released. Most people think that their juvenile record will just disappear once they become an adult but it’s not that simple. There’s a very slow process that can take a very long time that can ultimately affect a person getting a job. So we’re basically telling the younger generation to think about these types of things. Hopefully they’ll make better decisions.
GL: What is your favorite Philly hidden gem?
BG: I love the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill! I know it sounds boring but once you walk through though the gates, it’s like you’re in paradise. The trees and butterflies – it’s like a whole different world apart from the city. I really don’t know what paradise looks like but I’m pretty sure this is close to it.
GL: Do you travel outside of Philly?
BG: While I was with CNBC I would always travel up and down the east coast. I’ve been to Boston, Atlanta, Miami and New York. I was always on a plane flying everywhere. Then 9/11 hit and that shut me down. I have been freaked out about flying ever since.
GL: Do you think you’ll ever get on a plane again?
BG: I wouldn’t say never but I just haven’t been moved to get on a plane as of yet. I mostly travel by train or I’ll go on a road trip. I mean, Aretha Franklin travels by bus everywhere so it works (laughs).
GL: Do you have a passport?
BG: Aww man! I knew you were gonna ask me that. No! My friend and I always talk about going to Japan. He was just getting on me, saying, “how are we going to go to Japan and you don’t even have a passport?!” I just haven’t had the need for it because I haven’t flown (laughing). I’m gonna bite the bullet again…one day.
GL: Even though we’re still in shock, hopefully this next question can revive us (laughs). Who is your international #MCM?
BG: Of course you know it’s Idris (Elba)! My other one is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.
GL: Last question we like to ask, what’s your favorite brand/shade of lipstick?
BG: Reds! Love reds! I like anything by MAC. Back in the day, I also used to love a Fashion Fair color called “Chocolate Raisin” by Sam Fine.
If you are in the Philadelphia area tune in to Fox Philly to see some of Berlinda’s handy work and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @BerlindaGarnett.