What are your name, age, and location?
Ann Nyberg, 53 years old, Connecticut, USA.
What is your profession?
Television Newscaster/Reporter WTNH-TV, New Haven, Connecticut.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, Journalism.
What was your first job?
My first job in television was for an ABC network affiliate in Elkhart, Indiana.
Who or what inspired you to break into television news, and to launch both the Toy Closet program and your blog?
I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. I got a diary for a birthday present when I was eight years old and I think that’s when the writing started in earnest. I logged everything. As I got older and started to babysit, that was all cataloged, too. Crazy, I know. I remember when I learned to read and was grasping words as a little kid and remember how exhilarating that felt.
I was a business/retailing major at Purdue University—hated it; not a numbers gal—and changed to journalism my sophomore year of college, so I had my work cut out for me to graduate in four years. I had 18 hours by the last semester of my senior year. While everyone was kicking back, I was jamming big time to graduate. I loved to write, but I wanted to put pictures to the words, so TV news seemed like the place to do that. I never wanted to do entertainment news, which is so prevalent now; I’m a storyteller by nature and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
When I graduated from Purdue I went to the three network affiliates in South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana (my hometown), thinking maybe one of them would hire me. NBC and CBS said “no” but a News Director by the name of Phil Lengyel called and offered me my first job and the rest is history. Phil went on to work for Disney and to this day is my hero—I’ve told him so—because he gave me a shot.
I worked on the air in Indiana, moved on to Oklahoma City, and ended up on the East Coast, where I have been for nearly the last 25 years. This is home. I have three daughters, including a set of twins, and worked through it all with the help of an amazing husband, which is the key to success. Partnership is a must.
When I was a reporter in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, before I had children, I did a story on a Toy Closet that was in a Children’s Hospital. I saw a little four-year-old girl having a bone marrow aspiration and while this was going on, she held a worn red ribbon in her hand with a key on the end. When the procedure was over, she knew a trip to the toy closet was coming because she had had this done before. I watched as she went to the closet (it was a linen closet full of toys). She selected a brand new baby doll and held it in her arms and rocked it and told the baby, “It will be alright.” I think she was transferring what had happened to the doll and was comforting it. By now I had tears in my eyes and vowed if I ever was lucky enough to get in a position where I could set up such a program I would. I did, at Yale-New Haven Hospital, in 1993. It has provided hundreds of thousands of toys over the years to children from all over the world. At Yale there are many closets which are actually armoires and are stocked by loving volunteers through the Hospital Auxiliary. We get toys and donations year-round and are more and more in demand for all kinds of programs inside and outside the facility. The website is here.
I have been in television news for more than 30 years, saw the shift to social media, and hopped on board early in the game—and thank heavens I did. Technology is moving so fast and I feel like I am actually ahead of the curve when I compare myself to others in the field. Social media is powerful and, if used the right way, can connect you to others. That’s what I’m doing with my Facebook page and my Twitter account. I’m kind of a town crier for the state—I have been on the air so long here people have come to trust me. I get the word out about all kinds of things—charities, events, things of interest I see. All of that leads to my blog. I needed a place to start warehousing all of this. It is called Annie Mame.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1957 movie Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell, who just happens to be from Connecticut. So that fit. My name is Ann, I was born in 1957, people call me “Annie” so voila…Annie Mame was born. I’m writing about the people, places and things in the state which are no longer covered because of so many cutbacks in news. All of these wonderful things are flying under the radar and the stories need to be told. I have a little Kodak camera which shoots pictures and movies and I do this most days before I head into work. I set my GPS and off I go all over the state. I am a “second shifter” at work. I anchor the 6 and 10 o’clock news so the first part of the day is free. Yes, I work two jobs, but this could be a new future, who knows. Remember, I’m a storyteller, so this is just what I do.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career.
Being a woman may have helped initially when I started in television because in 1979, there were not a ton of women on the air. I knew I had to work really hard, harder than men, to make it, and I did, putting in 12 or 14 hours a day. Did I make mistakes? You bet, but if I didn’t know something I found out fast, and I never said “no” to anything.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career.
It’s the obvious answer: getting older. If you’re a man, you might get to stay longer. In a day and age where television thinks it can get young people to watch (they’re all online now), they hire younger gals; they are less expensive. I think there is room for both.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
In many ways, it’s actress Katharine Hepburn, also a Connecticut gal. She was tough and did it her way, no matter what. Hepburn lived until she was 96 and did most things on her terms. Perhaps a bit too tough at times. But the world is still talking about her today. It just so happens I’m on the board of trustees of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Hepburn’s beloved seaside town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. It just opened in September of 2009 and we are going gangbusters. It’s now known as “the Kate.” I write the blog for the theater’s website, too.
It is a delightful 250-seat, acoustically perfect theater, and we have a Hepburn museum in the building that dates back to 1910. It is a beautifully renovated building—it was the old Town Hall and has National Landmark status. I am truly proud to serve on the board for the non-profit venue. This week her U.S. postage stamp was revealed on the stage, which was a big deal and really put us on the map. You can see my story on that here.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Be yourself, which is one of the hardest things to do when you’re staring at a teleprompter. Be well-rounded, know a little about a lot, and if you don’t know, ask. Don’t ever come to the table and say “I don’t know.” Remember, you’re setting the bar for someone coming up right behind you.
Ann’s blog AnnieMame.com
The Kate – The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center