Imani Cheers, director and editor for PBS NewsHour, sat down for lunch with students on Tuesday, discussing her journey to become a journalist and journalism today.
But Cheers’ first order of business was to learn about the people that had come to see her speak.
“I’m more curious to hear about you guys,” she said.
Students gathered around a table in the newsroom of the Armory and ate pizza while introducing themselves to one another.
Beth Bartel, a 36-year-old graduate student studying broadcast and print journalism, was excited to listen to Cheers speak.
“I wanted to get a window into what it’s like to work at PBS NewsHour, and I always like to hear the perspectives of accomplished professionals in the media world,” Bartel said.
NewsHour is a news program broadcast every weeknight on PBS. Cheers, who manages staff members and the website for the program, grew up immersed in the world of journalism.
Though born in Chicago, Cheers and her family lived in multiple places, following her father’s job as a photojournalist for Ebony Magazine.
She received an undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where she started a television show originally geared towards entertainment pieces. It eventually grew to encompass international and political affairs.
After graduation, she went on to become a music video director to accompany her passion for hip-hop music. But once she began the profession, she quickly learned that it wasn’t what she expected it to be.
Cheers said she was offended and outraged by the misogyny that surrounded the hip-hop culture and sought to discover what compelled women to participate in what she considered to be degrading music videos. She wrote articles addressing this issue, gaining so much attention that they were discussed at multiple conferences.
Her passion for analyzing the misogynistic nature of hip-hop translated into her passion for journalism.
As a journalist, it’s “our responsibility to tell the truth, whatever that truth may be,” Cheers said.
After leaving the music video industry, Cheers went on to graduate school at Howard University in Washington D.C. and received a master’s degree in African Studies and Research, along with a certificate in Women’s Studies.
Her thesis on how rape is used as a tool of war in the Congo led to extensive research in Africa with rape victims. She found a job at a rape crisis center in Washington, D.C., but the emotional toll of working with the victims was too extreme. When she went on to get her Ph.D, she changed her dissertation to the representation of women on sitcoms.
After receiving her doctorate, she applied to multiple jobs and eventually made her way to PBS.
Cheers is responsible for the management of daily content on NewsHour’s website, and she manages four full-time staffers and twenty freelance teachers, media professionals and educational consultants.
Along with discussing her journey to her current profession, Cheers also talked about current events such as the presidential campaign and the social issues surrounding it.
Even though there seems to be conflict and a large division between the many different ethnic and ideological groups that make up the United States, Cheers said she believes that they will be able to come together and work through it.
“I don’t believe that we’re going to go back to oppressing people-we’ve come too far,” Cheers said.
Students said they were intrigued and fascinated with what Cheers had to say.
“She was so dynamic,” Bartel said. “Everything was great. I really enjoyed her perspectives on hip-hop.”
Cheers emphasized her feelings on what it takes to be a competitive and successful journalist.
Her advice for aspiring journalists is to travel as much as possible, learn an additional language, take on multiple internships, join professional organizations and make connections.
“It’s not okay to just have one skill,” Cheers said. “It’s important to be multi-faceted. You need to be great.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alexandria Aguerre at Alexandria.firstname.lastname@example.org.