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Interview With a Legend in Local News

I recently interview iconic local newspaper anchor Sue Simmons about her career and more.

 

No matter what career path people choose, they will always have a role model or someone they look up to. As I continue to study for my future career in journalism, there have been two individuals that I look up to, and they are probably the most famous reporters in local television, Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons from NBC New York. They have both anchored the news for over 32 years delivering some of the most iconic stories of the decades, however the dynamic team recently came to an end last Friday when Simmons said goodbye to NBC New York.

A few years ago I was had the opportunity to interview Sue Simmons about some of her most memorable moments in her decades long career. From realizing she wanted to become a journalist to her famous bloopers, Simmons discussed it all.

“I was inspired by my love of sports!” stated former-News 4 New York’s veteran anchor Sue Simmons. Prior from becoming a broadcast journalist, Simmons worked in a public relation office that was interviewing the first female sportscaster on New York’s local television. While talking to the new sports anchor Simmons realized that she knew more about sports than the reporter. After talking to the sportscaster Simmons then started to search for her first broadcasting job. Now over 3 decades later Sue Simmons has become a source for New Yorkers to get all the right news.

At the time when Simmons discovered she wanted to become a broadcast journalist, it was during the seventies when discrimination of women and certain races in the workforce was occurring. When asked if it was difficult to get into the “the business” during this time period, Simmons responded by saying “I probably had it a lot easier then today. Although I did not know it affirmative action was in full force and stations around the country were in danger of losing their licenses if there was no diversity in their staff.” However, even though affirmative action was occurring the individual still needed to be qualified for the job position; and Simmons excelled in her career from the very start.

She did not just work in New York; she also had a broadcasting career in Washington D.C, where one of her most memorable moment occurred. In Washington D.C people that called themselves “Hanafi Muslims” took over the city for 3 days in March of 1977. They killed a radio reporter and then called Simmons’ station and requesting her to go to their headquarters. When she got to the location she explained that, “it was pretty routine.” However, after several days the city of Washington D.C went back to normal and the hostage standoff was over.

When Simmons came to New York to start her career at WNBC, she was the co-anchor of the famous Live at Five where they would report the news of the day and interview many well-known celebrities. One of the Simmons’ favorite interviews was with singer Little Richard; on the other hand she went on to say that all the interviews were entertaining and fun to do.

One of the things Simmons’ loved about her job is that every day is different. Since most of what she does is on camera it means that she needs to work hard and concentrate in short amount of time. Reporting the news can be a little difficult at times because some of the stories seem so bizarre. Simmons’ does admit that they do laugh, but they have to wait until the commercial break. Once reporting a story with Matt Lauer, Simmons could not stop laughing. What was even worse she explains is that the directors refused to go to a commercial break and she had to continue report a serious stories.

On a liter note Simmons is known for being a great and funny anchor. Every year during Groundhogs Day, Simmons does her annual Groundhog expression. She started her annual expression when she reported a story about the holiday.

“It started on my first TV job in New Haven, Connecticut. My assignment was to cover Groundhog Day. At the end of the story I asked the cameraman to get a real tight close-up and I did the face. The next week I was out on another story, and as I walked thru this little town several people wiggled their noses at me. I had no idea why at first, my cameraman reminded me of the Groundhog Day bit, so it was then that I discovered that the impression really tickled folk,” stated Simmons.

There have been other funny moments during the broadcast that Simmons recalled.

“Some of the funnier moments were reporters getting tongue-tied with my name and Chuck’s, ‘Back to you Suck and Chew.’ More recently Brian Williams had a three-day brain fart, it happened while I was working with Jim Rosenfield, he threw it back to ‘Jew and Sim.’ He actually did it three days in a row, and on the third day he just threw his hand us and surrendered. He was alright the following days,” stated Simmons.

While on live television, Simmons has had some memorable bloopers. She has jokingly fell off her chair after Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, was giving a sneak peak of what was coming up next. Another blooper that had made Simmons a household name occurred a 2007, when Simmons slipped and said an expletive on live television while giving a sneak peak of what is coming up at the eleven o’clock news.

I was curious and I wanted to know what was exactly happening that infamous day. Simmons explained that when they do a news teaser the stage manager says if it is going to be live or taped. However, this day the stage manager was out and Simmons thought it was being recorded. When they finished counting down Simmons read her lines and her co-anchor Chuck Scarbogugh was suppose to read his.

“As usual I was fooling around and wasn’t paying close enough attention. I read my part, glanced over at Chuck and his face was buried in his computer. Having no idea we were on, because I thought the spot was being taped, I knew we could do it over again. I decided to get Chuck’s attention in a rather crude way. The rest is history, as they say,” stated Simmons Bottom of Form

New Yorkers have turned to Sue Simmons for over 32 years to get the news of the day and occasionally have a good laugh. Simmons has become a role model for many young inspiring broadcast journalists, but Simmons says, “It’s a little intimidating. Being a role model means that I have succeeded in my job. I try to live up to being a good role model by trying to represent myself in a professional manner. Sometimes this is difficult because I can be a loose cannon! Overall, I’m very, very flattered.”

Simmons has succeeded in so much. From being one of the first African American women broadcasters in New York to working over 32 years with the same station, New Yorkers have come to love Simmons and look forward to seeing what she does next.  

As David Hinckley said in a recent article, “Nobody sticks around for 32 years in New York if New York doesn’t like them. We’ll miss her.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

P.H.Pearse June 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM
The author needs to watch less television and experience the world if he thinks Sue Simmons is a "legend" or an "icon". Sue Simmons has been exposed as a phony,a very nasty individual lies beneath that smile that wears like a mask. NBC has been trying to get rid of her for years after incidents like falling asleep on air,and cursing out colleagues ,also on air.I would suggest the author view some footage of Edward R. Murrow,Walter Cronkite,Mike Wallace etc. if he wants to see what qualifies as a "legend" or an "icon". Sue Simmons is a nasty dinosaur.
John Friia June 23, 2012 at 01:53 PM
In response to your comment I would like to say a few things. First, I don't watch a lot of television, I do experience the world and see new people and things every day. In addition, I have watched clips and read numerous biographies about Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite. They are legends throughout the country and the world. They have lived extraordinary lives and journalists everywhere want to live up to their image. However, I did not say that Sue Simmons was a national legend, I stated that she is a legend in local news. There is no other reporter/anchor that has been with a station for more than 32 years in New York. Some people like her and some people don't. I respect your comment and your opinion, but I wanted to clarify your comment.
Grazia Centrone June 25, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Enjoyed your article. Indeed, Sue Simmons is a legend in local news and she didn't get there by being bland or boring! Love her or hate her, she survived in New York news for over 3 decades. That alone is worthy of some respect!! Keep writing about the people, issues, and events that are important to you. Your work may not always be appreciated but stay true to yourself and continue to handle personal attacks with the class you just displayed. I think you are on your way to a great career in journalism.
John Friia June 26, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Thank you Grazia, I appreciate your comment. Have a good day.
units July 11, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Nice writeup. I'm going through major Sue Simmons withdrawal, so I'm thankful for any new tidbits about my favorite anchor. I love her explanation for the on-air f-bomb. She must be such fun to work with, always keeping people on their toes. I hope she comes back to TV soon, or at least writes a book. God bless Sue Simmons!

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