What brought you to Glenn and what keeps you coming back?
My relationship with God has always been important to me. I was raised in the United Methodist church congregation my maternal grandfather helped start. On my father's side of the family one of my uncles was a Methodist minister and so is one of my first cousins. I think I am genetically predisposed to Methodism! The decision to visit Glenn was an easy one. Once I experienced Glenn, the decision to stay was even easier. Glenn members and staff have been so welcoming! Every Sunday the sermons, songs, worship and the love I feel from God through the people at Glenn keep me coming back.
What was your first job and what lessons did it impart that you continue to carry with you?
My first job was at Asbury Hills United Methodist Camp in South Carolina. I had just graduated from high school but I had not turned 18. Alas, I was not old enough to fulfill my childhood dream of being a camp counselor. I ended up working on the camp's kitchen staff slinging hash and washing dishes that first summer hoping that if I proved myself and worked hard I would be able to return to camp after my freshman year in college as a full-fledged counselor. It worked! That experience prepared me for my first job in television because it taught me that hard work will eventually pay off! During my senior year in college I got an internship at a station in Charleston, South Carolina and that turned into a full-time job as a producer once I graduated. I learned all aspects of television production during that first year in the business-writing scripts, editing video, interviewing guests, chasing down breaking news, running teleprompter and putting together newscasts.
Sonya is a graduate of College of Charleston. Take a look at this video her alma mater produced on her and her work.
You work at CNN as television producer. Tell us about the rhythms of your day and the process for getting your show ready to be aired.
Working in television news is a fascinating paradox. Every day is different, yet every day is the same. World events change in the blink of an eye, but the process to get it on the air and ready in time for my show deadline is constant. My day starts super early! My phone is the first thing I grab after turning off that annoying alarm. As Senior Producer, I start making editorial decisions about our show from the moment I wake up. I go through emails sent out by our overnight editorial staff, seeing what events have developed overnight and what might be on the horizon. I also check CNN’s website, social media and other news sites to get a snapshot of what the morning looks like. By the time I walk in the door of CNN Center I have started an outline for the newscast which airs at 12pm eastern time.
One of the many things I love about my job is the fact that everyone on the show team has input into what stories we cover and what angles or interesting facts about a particular story we need to highlight for our viewers. I love the collaborative aspect of what we do. Some members of my team are based in Atlanta and others, including our anchor Ashleigh Banfield, are based in New York. We all get together for a video conference early in the morning to discuss the stories we want to cover, the show segments and the guests we are booking for the show. Throughout the morning the show rundown changes as new stories break and new angles emerge. Our team of desk producers, reporters, producers, associate producers and writers work on aspects of the show right up until the very moment the story airs on CNN. At noon it is show time and the hour that we’ve worked all day for finally gets on the air! You might have a live report from the White House, London, Dubai, Hong Kong—really anywhere the news is happening. Once the show is over at 1pm, we’re already working on the next day-looking for interesting guests to book and more stories to cover. The job doesn’t end once I leave the building. I keep “tuned in” to events throughout the evening. And before you know it, that alarm goes off and it’s time to rise and shine again!
You hold awards from CNN. Describe those awards and what work you did to receive them.
I hold an Emmy Award, four Peabody Awards and a duPont Columbia Award for CNN’s coverage of the following stories: Hurricane Katrina, South Asia Tsunami, 2008 Presidential Primary, Gulf Oil Spill and international breaking news.
What is your favorite TV show?
Obviously, I’m particularly partial to “Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield” airing at 12pm eastern time on CNN! But for purely escapist fun “Walking Dead” is must-see TV for me. The story lines and characters are compelling. I also love seeing Atlanta locations on the show!
Many thanks to Sonya for sharing parts of her story with us and for the ways her story weaves into the fabric of Glenn.