For Alese Underwood of Spectrum News San Antonio, boots-on-the-ground storytelling has been the foundation of her journalism career. A field reporter from her first newscast nearly ten years ago in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Reporter for the evening newscasts today in San Antonio, Underwood is a team player and leads each piece she creates with fierce passion and an open heart. She shares on her career journey in the ever-changing landscape of news media, her impact on the local community through interests outside of the newsroom, and the unconditionally selfless support from her mother that has shaped her into the woman she is today.
On her career journey:
After working in television news as an on-air reporter for almost a decade, I can say with confidence that no two paths in the industry are alike. Everyone has a different journey. Doors open for all kinds of reasons, like networking and hard work; maybe you’re filling a role that your newsroom needs right now, and sometimes it’s being in the right place at the right time. I have been fortunate in my journey to have worked at stations in four cities that have each challenged me and helped me grow. After graduating college in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my career took off and has been on the go ever since. From live shots in -9 degree weather on Lake Erie’s Peninsula, to festivals in Shreveport, Louisiana where the thermometer tipped 113 degrees, to now soaking up everything South and Central Texas has to offer in San Antonio and Austin…I like to think I have always been a “utility player” for any newsroom. At Spectrum News, I typically work the dayside 9:30am-6:30pm and am in the field for the 4:00pm, 5:00pm, and 6:00pm newscast.
On what sets her apart in the newsroom:
Anyone who has worked in TV news can probably tell you that our industry is evolving — fast. How we tell stories is different and on what platform(s) we publish them is constantly changing. At my first job in 2010, I would go out with a photographer who would shoot and edit my stories. Fast forward to today, you’ll find me driving myself to a story out in the field. I shoot, edit, run my own live shots, write my own web scripts, and share my story on multiple platforms on social media. I pull around 70 pounds of gear in a wagon. The first year I had to pick up a camera, I’ll admit it was difficult. At times I even thought, “how much longer can I physically do this?” Almost two years ago, things changed when my current news director gave me the green light to explore ways to shoot and edit stories on my iPhone. From day one I jumped right in and embraced this. I bought my own gear to practice and got the hang of it pretty quickly. I was one of our first reporters to do a solo-liveshot with an app. I was given the opportunity to host a workshop for our reporters, showing them what I learned. Now, phones and editing apps have become a standard part of our station’s workflow. I am constantly evolving and experimenting with technology in my off-duty time to enhance stories on-air and on social media. The mobile journalism community is growing across the world, and I am working to be right there with them. Next goal — Drone Pilot.
On her passions outside of work:
My passions outside of work give the true glimpse into who I am. I am a person of faith and proud of it. My husband Derek and I attend St. Pius X Catholic Church in Alamo Heights and I volunteer as a lector. The United States military brought my husband and me to Texas. He is an active duty member of the Air Force. Even though at times our schedules are totally opposite, we try to give back within the military community when we can. Sometimes it’s an event, but other times it’s sitting down with another spouse for coffee if they’re having a difficult time. We say our Corgi-mix Foxy “rescued us”. The moment we saw her at San Antonio’s Animal Care Services, it was love at first sight. Another big passion in our house is fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve found an incredible group of friends through our Gold’s Studio classes at our gym in Live Oak. Each one of these passions brings very different people to the table of my life. They share different experiences, which give me amazing insight into the people of San Antonio. They help me tell stories. From the CEO, to the housekeeping staff in our office, every single person has a story and has the right to have their story told with respect. Reporters in the field don’t often get the glitz and glam of studio lights, promo videos, or billboards — but we are the boots on the ground telling stories from the heartbeat of the city — and that’s why I love what I do.
On her personal female hero:
My mother, Irene, is my hero. There isn’t enough room in this article to describe how much love we have for one another. The sacrifices she and my father have made for me are too many to count. They always made sure I had a strong foundation of faith and family and made sitting down together for dinner a priority. They did everything in their power to send me to incredible schools — from pre-school to college, and were present for every single moment of my growth into adulthood. They were my cheerleaders, volleyball and forensics speech coaches, school and church volunteers, immediate rescuers if I ever found myself in trouble and the ultimate “say yes to the dress” judges for every single high school dance up to my wedding day. Even though it was difficult (and still is) for my mom to watch me move away and chase my dreams, she has been a rock of support. We still talk on the phone every single day on my way into work and she and my dad are some of the first calls I make if I need help. My mom is my ultimate example of a female hero, and I hope when I have children, I can share a fraction of her guidance and strength.
Connect with Alese Underwood on Twitter @AleseU and on Instagram @aleseuh87.
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Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.