The Sarasota Post had the pleasure of speaking with ABC 7 Anchor Jacqueline Matter who was gracious with her time and words. Jacqueline offered some helpful advice to budding journalism students and gave us some insight into what inspires her. We enjoy providing you a peek into the daily lives of some of Sarasota’s most influential movers and shakers. And, Jacqueline Matter is continuing a legacy of broadcast excellence and community involvement we’ve come to expect from ABC 7.
How are things going with your position as anchor at ABC 7?
Things are going great at ABC 7! I recently hit my one-year mark in December and I feel like time is flying by! As for transitioning to the evening position, I enjoy working with Bob Harrigan and Scott Dennis. We all have such different personalities and that’s what makes our bond so unique. I am privileged to be able to learn from amazing journalists and gain informative feedback from those who have been in the business for decades, as with Scott. He has taught me so much just in the few months I’ve shared an anchor desk with him and I look forward to what will come.
Any stand out moments to date that you’d like to share?
A stand out moment for me was covering Hurricane Irma. I have covered hurricanes as a reporter and anchor while I worked at a tv station in North Carolina, but it was nothing like what we experienced here on the Suncoast. For me, it was my first hurricane in Florida and once the track had shifted toward our direction, an instinct in me just kicked in. I remember packing up some of my most valuable belongings and putting them in the back of my car, heading to ABC 7 and not knowing what I would come home to, but I knew my purpose – to bring lifesaving information to our viewers who were counting on us. We were right there living and watching Irma unfold with our viewers.
You come from a long line of military in your family, were there also journalists in the group?
No one in my family have been journalists, per se, however when I got my first job out of college, my mother cried with excitement because she told me she had always wanted to be a reporter and she was so happy I was living my dream. I never knew that! My grandfather who was in the Marine Corps was also a communications major and he is one of my biggest supporters. He calls or emails me regularly to tell me ways I can improve my delivery and storytelling.
When did you realize broadcast journalism was for you?
Growing up I always wanted to be a lawyer, and eventually had my mind set on becoming a prosecuting attorney. In between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I interned at a law firm in Manhattan and realized it was much different than what I had originally expected. That’s when I went back to the drawing board to look at what other options interested me. I always grew up watching the news, being infatuated with some of my idols like Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer, and I also anchored my high school’s morning newscast. Reflecting on that, I realized I had a passion for storytelling and journalism. That’s when I applied to UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism. While studying at Carolina, I was able to take part in weekly newscasts that allowed me to craft my storytelling and it gave me the hands-on experience needed to move forward in my career. I’ll never forget the hours spent writing, editing and sharing ideas with friends in Carroll Hall. It was a turning point for me to see if broadcast news was really what I wanted to do, and it helped prepare me for the next step.
Have you any teachable moments from your career that you’d like to share with journalism enthusiasts?
I get asked this question a lot, especially when I speak to younger journalists at my alma mater or interns. One thing I would tell people going into any career field is to learn patience and determination. My mom always told me, “The worst they can say is no.” That was repeated to me dozens of times when I was applying to tv stations out of college. I had to learn patience while I waited to hear back from news directors and I had to take a chance and trust myself that I had what it takes to exceed in journalism. I still think of that quote in my head to this day because you never know unless you try! Secondly, I would encourage young journalists to have thick skin and tenacity when it comes to your reporting. The public will criticize you or your work heavily at times, and people’s opinions of you depend on the stories you write. Sometimes you tell great stories featuring a sweet young child making a difference in the community and sometimes you tell stories where there is no room for mistakes. You see, sometimes to cover a story fairly, you will end up upsetting people, but you must tell both sides. As a journalist, your job is to let your viewers know that they can trust you with the facts. You must not be careless with them and all journalists must aim for accuracy. Lastly, I would encourage young journalists to develop relationships with the people they work with. I have had the privilege to work and share an anchor desk with three different co-anchors in a one-year span here at ABC7 and I have learned so much from each one of them. Those relationships will be vital down the road because as large as the news world may seem, it’s quite small. Everybody knows everybody in this business and having the ability to get along and work with anyone will put you on top.
Which charitable groups do you work closely with in the area?
I work with numerous charitable groups on the Suncoast and it is one of my favorite parts of the job! I love being able to get involved in my community while giving back at the same time. I work closely with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County and Sarasota County, Hope for the Warriors, SPARCC, The Circus Arts Conservatory, Animal Rescue Coalition, and I am always open to working with more!
What do you enjoy most about Sarasota/Bradenton? Can you tell us your favorite beach, restaurant, book, and movie?
I do live in the area, in South Sarasota. I love living here and being so close to the beach. One of the best things about living here is if you’re ever having a bad day… a simple drive over the Ringling Bridge or a quick run along Siesta Key Beach will ease all your worries away. What more could you ask for! My favorite beach would be Siesta Key, of course it’s sand is just beautiful, and the water is so crystal clear! No wonder it’s named the #1 beach in America. There are so many wonderful restaurants on the Suncoast I haven’t really been able to decide a favorite. Seriously! They are all outstanding and there are so many different options to choose from. As for a favorite book, that is a tough one. I read a lot in my free time and recently got about four books from my younger sister aimed at broadcast journalism. I have simultaneously been reading all of them and am really enjoying those now. One of my favorite movies would have to be Dirty Dancing. I used to watch that with my mom growing up and we would pretend to do the dance together. She even once took me to the place where it was filmed!
Do you enjoy getting out in the field or do you enjoy anchoring more?
That’s a tough one regarding whether I enjoy getting out in the field or anchoring more. They both are so different and have unique qualities about them. I currently am enjoying becoming a stronger anchor and working on those skills, but I do miss being out in the middle of it all reporting. They both have a special place in my heart and I really could never see myself doing anything else. I truly enjoy coming to work and having the opportunity to do what I love every day.
You are on the air several times a day, what is a “typical” day like for you?
Well I will tell you my “typical” day is much different than it was a few months ago when I was on Good Morning Suncoast. That was a rough schedule! My typical day now consists of going to the gym, attending events, or running a never-ending list of errands before work. I go into the newsroom at 3pm and read over scripts, tape commercials to tease to the evening newscasts, and prepare! Then it’s show time! After anchoring for an hour and a half, I usually go on my dinner break if I don’t have to attend another evening event and then come back to the station to prepare for the evening newscast. In between all of this throughout the day, I am constantly checking and updating social media. Today’s viewers want to know information as soon as it’s available so giving them that breaking news as soon as it happens is so important. Social media plays a big role in today’s news, and then encouraging them to tune in to find out more details in our evening shows is where we hope to give them the information they need to know at the end of their day.
Thank you, Jacqueline, for taking the time to bring our readers up to date on your exciting role as anchor at ABC 7. We will enjoy tracking your successes and will count on you to keep Suncoast readers in the know.
Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Matter ABC 7 Facebook Page.