Cool Careers: CNN Anchor Susan Hendricks08.21.12
If you tune into HLN, you might be quick to notice a charming news anchor with an enticing smile and piercing blue eyes. Her name — Susan Hendricks. Her job — a hard-hitting journalist who gives us our daily news briefing with calmness, confidence and grace. Hendricks uses her wit and knowledge to inform and educate the viewers of shows such as Anderson Cooper 360°, Morning Express with Robin Meade and HLN Now. Cotton Candy recently got the chance to catch up with Hendricks, a Jersey girl that headed out to the West Coast to start her career as a reporter and eventually landed below the Mason-Dixon in Atlanta. She gives us an inside look at a career in news, her journey to the anchor desk, and southern life in the A-T-L.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey. My Mom and Dad still live in the house where I grew up. I have nothing but great memories. I also grew up going to Mantoloking, New Jersey in the summer. (Yes, the Jersey shore.) I live in Buckhead [an Atlanta neighborhood.] It has a suburb feel but is close to great restaurants. My favorite place: Whole Foods.
I loved expressing myself through writing in high school. It wasn’t until I got to Arizona State that I knew I wanted to be a reporter. I heard Walter Cronkite speak in one of my classes. I was able to interview Mr. Cronkite years later as a reporter. It was an honor to meet him and spend time with such an icon.
How’d you get started in the news business?
I started as an intern at the Fox affiliate in Phoenix. I watched and learned so much. It’s been a long journey that led me to Atlanta. I spent several years in Los Angeles and Palm Springs at the ABC and NBC affiliates, KMIR and KESQ.
Be honest. When the little red light turns on, do you ever get nervous that hundreds of thousands of people are watching you?
I wouldn’t say nervous but exhilarated. There is energy to live TV that is unlike anything else I’ve done. Covering breaking news as it is happening is the best part of my job.
How do you prep for the day at work? What is it about your job that most people don’t know but should? How do you decompress at home?
Let’s start with the decompressing part. I put on comfy clothes, take off my makeup, and play with my daughter. Nothing is better. My iPhone comes in handy when prepping for work. I also read e-mails and see what guests will be on the show. What people should know about my job is that there is so much that goes on behind the scenes. The writers and producers play a significant role in everything you see on the air. Having a good producer is so helpful. The control room is where it all happens.
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How do you balance the role as a news anchor and the most important job of all – mom?
It’s difficult to do as I am sure any working mom will tell you. My daughter is in school three days a week. I drive her to school and pick her up. When she sees me at the door she runs full force into my arms. If one thing has to go, it’s usually sleep.
When you’re on TV, it’s hard not to notice that you’re quite the blonde bombshell. How would you describe your personal style?
I give all the credit to the makeup artists who spend a lot of time making that happen. I would say my personal style is simplistic. I love Ralph Lauren because he designs clothes that fit well but aren’t so trendy. I have some sweaters and dresses by Ralph Lauren that I have had for years, but they never go out of style.
What is your favorite accessory or piece of clothing you have?
My favorite accessory is a black Van Cleef & Arpels necklace. I’ve had it for years, and it always makes whatever I’m wearing feel better. My sister has one in white, so we switch every time we see each other. I’m lucky. One of the many perks of having a sister is that we can shop in each others closets.
Tell us a little about your hobbies.
I love taking my daughter to the park, and swimming with my daughter is always fun. She loves the water. And exercising has become a hobby. It definitely helps me de-stress.
If you weren’t doing the news, what would you be doing?
I would be writing and telling stories in a different way.
What drives you?
People inspire me, and that drives me to live better every day. Especially people like Eric LeGrand, a Rutgers Scarlet Knights football player who was paralyzed in 2010 while making a tackle during a play. Since then he has inspired the nation with his continuing road to recovery.
Who’s been your biggest influence?
My mother and father. Because of them I always felt that anything was possible.
What’s your best attribute?
The other day someone said they were surprised that I was funny. It’s good to know that someone other than my mom thinks so.
What eBooks are you reading?
I love reading biographies. It’s so interesting to me to dive inside a person’s journey. I am reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.
Who’s your dream interview?
My dream conversation would be with Oprah. I am sure she would be on most people’s list. I just watched Oprah’s interview with Rihanna on OWN. Oprah has a way of connecting with the audience and with the guest. It never feels like an interview. You can, for a moment, get an enlightening glimpse into someone’s life. You leave feeling like you have learned something, and you are connected.
Lots of young women and men want to be a news anchor or reporter. Any advice for novices?
Yes. Learn as much as you can about the field you want to get into. Spend as much time as you can learning. As simplistic as it sounds, the more you do something the better you get.
Everyone has hopes and dreams. What is something you still want to accomplish?
My hopes are that my family remains happy and healthy. My dreams are to continue to learn and be inspired. I am extremely grateful for everything I am able to do and learn at HLN and CNN.
If you’re having a down day at work, what do you do to stay poised, collected, and calm when you’re on TV?
Everyone has bad days, but when I am on the set I get re-energized. I focus on the story I am talking about. It’s very easy to put things into perspective and stay focused.
What’s the best part of your job? And the worst?
The best part is reporting on stories and seeing the viewers reach out to help others simply because we’ve aired a story. An example is a story we did about a woman who could not afford to buy her children anything for Christmas. She was working two jobs and was barely able to stay in her home. The response HLN had from people wanting to help that family was inspiring. The worst part is seeing and hearing about the devastating violence in Syria. Children dying and feeling helpless. That is the most difficult part.
Any tips on how to get your dream job?
Expand what you believe is your dream job. Your path may lead you in a different direction. Be open to new experiences, and don’t be afraid of hard work.
What’s next for Susan?
I am fortunate that I am able to do what I love. I want to continue to tell compelling stories and continue to learn and grow.
Photos Courtesy HLN