• Hannah Milner

Black History Month: The Journalism Career of Robin Roberts

How her passion and determination changed the journalism industry for the better

By: Hannah Milner

“Who do you look up to?” A question we are all bound to be asked at some point in our lives with an endless number of possible answers. The answer to this question could help explain where the individual’s interests and passions lie, simply based on the person they admire. If they are a sports lover, they are likely to name an athlete that changed the game. If they are an advocate for the world around them, they are likely to name a political or historical figure that made a difference. For me, I am naming a journalist who impacted people everywhere she went and changed the industry for the better. The person I look up to is Robin Roberts.

Passion For the Industry

Robin Roberts has always been a woman who has known what she wants, what she is capable of, and where she would thrive. She knew she wanted to be a communicator, one who could bring people together. She believed that people have more in common than not. This thought fueled her passion for journalism and helped her stay focused on where she would thrive. Robin Roberts athletic childhood fueled her passion for sports

Roberts playing basketball early in life
Robin Roberts athletic childhood fueled her passion for sports journalism.

journalism. Roberts started her career with multiple offers to be a news anchor, but she turned them all down for a part-time position where she could cover sports journalism. Roberts knew her passion was sports and that she could offer the best to the industry in a role where her passion aligned. She didn't jump on the big flashy offers, but instead sacrificed the higher pay and prestige for a position she knew she would be passionate about and bring a lot of energy to. She explains that she “was dreaming big but focusing small” when describing climbing the ladder to fame in the journalism industry. This statement is simple, yet profound. When accepting the KMPG Inspire Greatness Award, Roberts said “for me, life is not so much what you accomplish, but what you overcome. I believe patience and persistence are keys to thriving in the midst of adversity.” Robert's testament of her successful career serves as an example to aspiring journalists that passion, focus and patience are the building blocks to a successful career.

Authenticity In Her Journey

When tragedy strikes, an individual’s first reaction typically is not to share with the people around them. It’s even less likely for someone with a public platform, as there is fear of how their life would change if the world found out. In 2007, Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was an utter shock to the healthy 46-year-old.When she was first

Robin Roberts returns to Good Morning America after beating breast cancer.
Robin Roberts returns to Good Morning America after beating breast cancer.

diagnosed, Robert’s plan was to retreat and not tell anyone. However, then her mom told her to make her “mess her message.” After Roberts announced that she had breast cancer on Good Morning America, she said, "that night, I slept the best I had since my diagnosis. I felt the prayers; I felt the well wishes. I felt I wasn’t hiding anything anymore, and it was a relief.” Unfortunately, this would not be the end of Roberts using her mess to be her message. Five years after her cancer diagnosis she was diagnosed with a rare blood condition known as Myelodysplastic Syndrome. This time, she immediately chose to bring this diagnosis into the limelight and use her experience to bring awareness. Roberts utilized the struggles in her personal life to bring authenticity and vulnerability into her professional life. Her journey reminded the world that staying true to yourself and writing from a place of authenticity can be the most powerful tool in one’s journalistic career.

Impact On the World Around Her

Roberts has built an impressive career as a broadcast journalist. She has won several awards, written several books, started a motivational podcast and interviewed some of the most iconic figures of the past decade. Her library of accomplishments and successes are ones to be honored and praised. But nothing in Robert’s career can compare to the impact and legacy she will leave behind. The mantra she lives by says, “optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use.” Being a woman of color and coming from a small town that didn't provide many opportunities caused her to face many challenges in the industry. But it was her optimism amidst those challenges that helped her where she is today. Roberts is an example that the path your career takes is ultimately up to the choices you make and the attitude in which you do it.

The Legacy We Leave Behind

We all have goals and aspirations we want to achieve in this lifetime, whether they are success, fame, happiness, or something in between. But one thing I never want to lose sight of is the impact that the choices I make today have on the legacy I will leave behind. Robin Roberts has lived her life and built her career to be one that brought optimism, vulnerability, truth and justice for everyone and everything around her. Everyone who watched her journey unfold felt as though she brought them along as a friend, not a viewer. If you ask me, that’s a remarkable way to use your platform. Journalists have the ability to share stories and have conversations that can impact the world around them. Roberts has set the gold standard of how it should be done. To Robin Roberts, well done, and to the one reading, let’s make her proud.

About the Author

Hannah Milner is an up-and-coming public relations professional in Denton, Texas. Hannah is studying journalism with a focus in Public Relations at the University of North Texas and will be graduating in May 2022.