Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, and welcome to another edition of Women Mean Business, where we’re going to take you up close and personal with extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. My guest today is Ann Compton, White House Correspondent for ABC News. I am thrilled to have you here with us today.
Ann: Thank you.
Leisa: I don’t even know how to say tell us about your job.
Leisa: It’s so extraordinary, and I know there were not a lot of women there. So, tell us what you do every day.
Ann: Basically, I go into the White House at 6:15 in the morning. I track whatever the president does. Now, he did go to Afghanistan without me, a secret trip for his own security. He got into Afghanistan after midnight, left before dawn. Sometimes when you cover a president there are security considerations, and in a warzone, that’s one of them. So, there’s some excitement. There are some cutting edge about the job. There’s also, like any family, a lot of hurry up and wait, especially the press corp. Expecting – knowing that the president’s gonna give a speech, knowing a new policy is rolling out, but knowing that you have to take the time to do your homework, what it is the president wants to make. Talk to people about what he’s doing. Talk to people outside of the White House to get a fuller picture of what the president’s really doing.
Leisa: Wow, it’s a lot of work. I know you didn’t just get there overnight. Tell us how you got to this fabulous position.
Ann: Well, like many young women, I went to a women’s college and got a great liberal arts education and no idea what I wanted to do with it.
Ann: But I did an internship with the local CBS station in Roanoke, Virginia, and I did it for a whole month, and I loved it. I loved everything about broadcasting, the newsroom. There was a very exciting governor’s race that year. In February of my senior year in college, the phone rang. It was the owner of the television station offering me a job as a cub reporter, $100.00 a week. At that moment, Leisa, the ink began running through my veins. I said, “This is what I want to do.” Three years later, I’m covering the state legislature and ABC News calls and said, “We’d like to offer you a job as a correspondent.” First, in New York, and then a year later they moved me to the White House, and it was because, at that time, there were almost no women.
Leisa: Wow, I know you’ve covered seven presidents.
Leisa: Is that what I heard?
Ann: I started when I was 11.
Leisa: I believe you.
Leisa: You only look about 13 now, so can you name them all?
Ann: You bet: Gerald Ford, the first unelected president –
Ann: – suddenly became president when Richard Nixon resigned.
Ann: And under President Ford is when I arrived. Then he was defeated by Jimmy Carter, who was defeated by Ronald Reagan, who after two full terms, his vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush –
Ann: – of Houston was elected, and I covered the first Bush presidency. He lost to Bill Clinton, the first president who was the same age I was or pretty close to.
Leisa: I know.
Ann: And then his – after his eight years, another Bush came back. I covered President George W. Bush for two terms, and now, of course, Barack Obama.
Leisa: Phenomenal, I can’t believe that I actually moved to Washington DC when Gerald Ford was the president. So…
Leisa: It sounds like seven is a lot, but it’s really not. I’ve been there, too.
Ann: In the sweep of history that we look at, modern presidents go back to, maybe, World War II. Except for our daughter’s generation, modern presidents go back to Ronald Reagan, period. [Laughter]
Leisa: President Bush is Laura’s president, not even Ronald Reagan. So, there you have it. But tell me, I know there’s a lot of young people who are so interested in broadcast and journalism, and I know it’s much busy – more busy a field than it once was. What advice would you give someone?
Ann: The nature of communications, of broadcasting, of just the information society we live in, has changed more in the last five years than it has in the last 35.
Ann: And for the field now, there – so much is internet-based. Even our conversation today –
Ann: – so accessible to people on the internet. So, today’s women have to compete, not only for broadcast positions; they have to be able to write beautifully, but they have to understand the digital world, and how to take big issues and compact them into – well, maybe not 140 characters in a Tweet, but to be able to make information bite size, and that is one of the biggest challenges, and I think most women I know who get into the business really find that a challenge but one that they can conquer quickly.
Leisa: Thank you for that information, and thank you for being here. There you have it, another extraordinary woman doing extraordinary things. I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, President and Chief Marketing Officer of ContentActive, Houston’s leading web and mobile technology provider. You can find me at ContentActive.com or follow me on Twitter at LHNelson. We’ll be back again next week with another edition of Women Mean Business.
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