NBC Connecticut anchor and reporter Keisha Grant recounted personal experiences and gave advice to communications students Friday in the Arts and Communications Building.
Grant is an Emmy award-winning anchor and La Verne alumna. She was on campus last week to receive the Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award during Homecoming.
During her afternoon presentation to students, Grant talked about interviewing Vice President Joe Biden, covering the Sandy Hook school shooting, and reporting live for the first time.
Grant also recounted the time the White House press secretary called the newsroom to ask for her. At first she thought it might have been a joke. However, she later received a call from her news director asking her if she wanted to go to the White House. She was about five months pregnant at the time.
“When the White House calls – no matter what your policy, no matter what your political affiliation, no matter what your politics are – you go,” Grant said.
The White House was looking for five anchors or reporters from across the country in markets that had been deeply affected by gun violence, she said. Each reporter was allowed five minutes. Grant said her interview lasted nine minutes before she had to wrap it up, but she fit in one last question. She asked Biden if he regretted not running for president. The question came after speaking to him in the hallway because Biden had to briefly delay the interview to go to lunch with President Obama. He had made a quip that left an impression on Grant that made her feel like he missed not running in this presidential election. He said yes, which was something he had never admitted before, Grant said.
“It’s cool, as someone who is graduating at the end of this year, to hear from somebody who has graduated from La Verne and who is successful,” senior public relations major Emily Burchett said. “We hear from the same three alumni; it is very cool to hear from other alumni who aren’t the typical ones that we pull from.”
Grant also touched on the stressfulness of the industry.
“The stress level in this industry is so high that I remember sitting in a live truck putting my head between my legs thinking, ‘Breathe, just breathe.’” Grant said about the aftermath of her interview with Biden.
She still had to prepare for her 6 p.m. news and only had an hour to get everything done.
“They don’t send you on the road if they think you’re going to fail,” Grant said.
That interview lead her to be considered for a Barbados Award she ultimately won because someone from the Barbados consulate saw the interview in New York.
“I left the presentation with greater hope that someday I can come here and talk about my experiences and my accomplishments, and maybe I can inspire someone else like Keisha did,” said senior broadcast journalism major Humberto Fabian.
Grant also spoke about having to cover difficult stories using her experience with reporting the Sandy Hook shooting.
“It still gives me chills because it was the worst thing I had to cover,” Grant said.
She said when something like that happens, anchors are sitting behind the desk for hours on end. There is nothing written on the prompter in front of them; it is all based on knowledge and someone talking in their ear while they are talking.
“Your trying to take that information and decide for yourself: what can I report, what should we report, what is worth reporting,” Grant said.
She mentioned anchors and reporters cannot let the toll these stories take on them show on air or take it home.
“You can’t take this stuff home; if you do, you’re a wreck,” Grant said.
Despite the stressfulness of the job, Grant said her ability to overcome it came in part from her early days working in Palm Springs with the NBC affiliate KMIR. She said she had a “never say never” attitude, which lead to her first time reporting live on air.
There had been a bomb threat at the College of the Desert and the station did not have someone to cover it, so they sent her. The next day, the news director created a position for Grant as a general assignment reporter.
“Fabulous, hard work absolutely pays off,” Grant said.
She ended her talk by telling the student audience they need to work hard so they can be ready for when opportunity meets success, but to not let life pass them by.
“You have got to enjoy the ride,” Grant said.
Celene Vargas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.