An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!
Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 50 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.
For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews
Norma Holland; A Prominent Journalist Beaming With Positivity
I asked Norma a series of questions. Here are her responses.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.
My parents moved to Irondequoit when I was 4 and that’s where I was raised but my parents maintained close contact with their family and friends in the city (Rochester) so I spent a lot of time there, too. My dad used to drive us around the city and he and mom would point out where they lived, where they met, where they used to shop. It was a living history lesson! I attended St. Margaret Mary School in Irondequoit (it’s closed now), Bishop Kearney High School and then I went to SUNY Geneseo where I studied journalism and public relations.
What inspired you to be a journalist? Early experiences worth sharing?
I was co-captain of the Speech and Debate team at Bishop Kearney High School. Every Saturday, I competed in speech competitions throughout the region and the state. I would write and deliver an original 10-minute speech. I loved it! I was NYS Oratory Champion one year and that’s when I began to think seriously about journalism as a career. I loved researching, writing and current events. I also developed an appreciation for the power of journalism to affect social change. My parents grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and I used to wish I could have been alive during that time to write and report about what was happening in Rochester.
Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.
My career at 13 WHAM began as an intern, and I was later hired as a weekend assignment reporter and part-time reporter. I was the youngest reporter in the newsroom so I felt a bit isolated from the other more-seasoned reporters and anchors. So many people embraced me and took me under their wing; I’ll never forget their kindness. Unfortunately, my youth and inexperience made me a target for some people who mistook my confidence for arrogance. Couple this with the fact that I was one of only a handful of reporters of color in the market and you can imagine that I had a lot to prove. I also started working at a time when there a lot of pressure for broadcasters to fit a mold when it came to appearance. My curly hair did not fit so I beat it into submission with lots of chemicals. I was also not a size 2 so I went on lots of diets to, literally, fit in. Over time, I’ve learned that people appreciate someone who is genuine and can be themselves.
What do you believe sets you apart from other journalists?
When I began my career people would ask me what Don Alhart was like. My answer was simple, “He’s the same person on the air that he is off the air.” I’d like to think the same of myself. Broadcast journalists get a lot of criticism for sounding robotic or having a certain way of speaking and acting. For me, it’s not about that. I try to think of the audience as a family member and I deliver the news in the same way I’d tell one of them a story. I’m not trying to be anything other than myself. Plus, I have a sense of humor and I try to imbue that, when appropriate, into the broadcast. This world is full of so much sadness that if I can brighten someone’s day with a joke, then that’s ok with me.
Do you have other interests or hobbies?
My most important interest is my daughter who was born last year. I spend most of my days raising her with my husband, and that makes us both immensely happy. When I’m not working or taking care of her, I love to perform as part of Estrofest—a local women’s comedy troupe. We write and perform original sketch comedy in a yearly show and as part of Rochester Fringe Festival. Look for us in September!
Any projects you have out or currently working on?
I’m always looking for stories to tell on “Many Voices, Many Visions”—a public affairs show I host each week. I’m also working on a special report that I’m very excited about; it’s set to air within the next few weeks.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
I want to always be learning something new. That’s my goal for five years from now, and for as long as I live.
What advice can you give to aspiring journalists?
Never think a job is beneath you. Take an entry-level position and turn it into a promotion by working hard. That means sacrifice. You will work weekends and holidays and stand outside in the bad weather and, these days, you will do it all while carrying a video camera. That’s not easy, but your skills will grow as will your responsibility and, hopefully, your role within the company. Also, keep a love of learning alive, even when you think you’ve mastered everything. That’s among the hardest things to do — to keep challenging yourself.
How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?
You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter. I post stories there daily and love to interact with people.