A Deeper Dig into "The Bio"

“I’ve been so many places in my life and time…”  

 

Cue Leon Russell, Bette Midler, Donny Hathaway and any other gifted songster who ever sang “Your Song.”

 

If you live in the Philadelphia Tri-State region and have watched TV from 1991 to 2015, you know me as a local news anchor and reporter. For close to twenty-five years, I anchored as many as four newscasts a day for the NBC station. In fact, when I started at WCAU, it was Philadelphia’s CBS station. In the early days of reporting, my law degree from the University of Pennsylvania came in handy for covering what would come to be called, the "Trial of The Century." I became the station's legal correspondent. It's hard to believe that twenty plus years later, OJ is still making news.

 

If you were in Atlanta or Albany in the late '80s and early '90s, you saw me on local news stations in those cities — but only for a minute. I was determined to move as quickly as possible into a major local market. However, I did take a brief detour into the networks for an opportunity too good to pass up. What was then a fledgling network, Fox, hired me as their science and technology correspondent for "Beyond Tomorrow." BT was an Aussie produced program that gave a glimpse into the future. Boy, was it fun. The Australian team was some of the greatest folks with whom I've ever worked. The job: a dream-traveling across Europe and The Americas predicting how future technology and inventions would change our lives. What's cool is that so many of the stories we did back then (the late '80s) are commonplace today. Think GPS or Augmented Reality. Even though BT (the US edition) was canceled after one season, I felt lucky to have landed such an innovative gig only a year out of Missouri's graduate journalism program. At Mizzou, we called it the world's greatest J school. (As a Mizzou grad, of course, I think it still is!)

 

But it wasn't always about broadcast TV. If you looked up Martindale Hubbell from the early '80s, you would have found me on One Wall Street as a litigation associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. To this day, the firm is a powerhouse full of brilliant, committed attorneys – although they have since moved from One Wall.

After a year at Hughes Hubbard, I took a leave of absence (almost from the start I was conflicted about being a Wall Street lawyer) to work for one of the jurisprudential giants of the civil rights movement. Clerking for The Hon. Damon J. Keith on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was the highlight of my professional career. After the clerkship ended, I returned to Hughes Hubbard for another year before taking the plunge into television.

 

My career in local news ended in 2015 when my husband, a United States Congressman, was indicted and subsequently convicted of campaign finance fraud. Since you can't do the news while making the news, I left the station. I had a non-compete clause for a year, giving me time, after thirty years of work, to regroup, focus on family, and figure out what was next in this, the third act in my life.

 

Now if you are still reading along, indulge me as I go back even further.

I grew up in Colorado during the '60s and early '70s, coming of age during the heyday of the civil rights movement. Nightly, I remember our family watching the CBS Evening News with Uncle Walter. The grainy pictures (of course it wasn't grainy to us – this was all we knew) of police dogs, water hoses and black bodies under attack set me on a career path not of a reporter, but a lawyer. I saw the injustice, and I heard my Dad repeatedly tell us that the law for “Negroes” was a way to make change happen. People like Whitney M.Young, Thurgood Marshall, and of course, Dr. King, were talked about in hushed tones of reverence. Dad’s lessons weren't lost on me, even though our family was hardly on the front lines of the struggle.

As the sole (can I say soul) black family in our community, I remember only welcoming neighbors and warm relationships. My memories of growing up are full of great times – friends, horseback riding, rodeos and weekend family ski trips. It was the image many had of my hometown – Littleton, Colorado – that is, until Columbine. The worst school shooting in US history changed everything for the community and of course, the nation.

Being sent to report on Columbine was one of my toughest assignments. My daughter Cameron was just six months old at the time. As a new mom, the loss of a child took on a whole new, crushing meaning. And there was more. Because I had waited until my 40's to have kids, many of the parents I interviewed were former classmates who had children when they were in their twenties and thirties. So now their kids were high school aged and knew kids at Columbine. It was a devastating time—objectivity all but an impossible goal. Up close I saw the fragility and randomness of life in all its unfairness. But I also saw in those days and in other good and bad stories over the years, how sharing a narrative can create empathy and a way forward.

 

That's my story, and now it’s time to share yours. I believe our stories can move the needle around some of the pressing social issues of our time-health care and health disparities, racial and economic injustice, education of our children, and women's empowerment. In this, the third chapter of my life, these are the issues that speak to me. If you feel the same way, let’s talk.

© 2019 Renée Chenault Fattah  I  All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                                                                                                   www.rdsgraphicdesign.com