February 23, 2011

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 81, Issue 7

Do you have what it takes to become a news anchor? Spotlight on Channel 2's Maryalice Demler and Marissa Bailey

Maryalice holds her honorary New York Emmy trophy for Best News Anchor.

Maryalice holds her honorary New York Emmy trophy for Best News Anchor.

Being a news anchor seems easy “ all it entails is reading off what the producers give you to read, right?


One of the biggest misconceptions in broadcast journalism is what anchoring and reporting requires and involves. It is not a simple career, but a very challenging, time-consuming and demanding one.

In a sit-down interview, Niagara University graduates Maryalice Demler and Marissa Bailey of WGRZ Channel 2 News reflected on their time at NU, how they decided on a broadcast journalism profession and what really occurs behind the scenes.

Unlike many other journalists, Maryalice did not major in communications in college. In fact, her career plan did not involve the media at all. She declared a major in political science and French at NU. Her influence to become a political science major came from a longtime interest in politics. She was chosen by the American Legion to be in the Empire Girls State program, a week-long seminar in government.

She was elected as a ward leader, and, It planted the seed, she said. Maryalice studied abroad in France in her junior year of college and learned about another culture and ways of life.

It was amazing to see how the rest of the world perceives us, she said.

After graduating with honors and two bachelor's degrees from NU, Maryalice became a French teacher in a Catholic school. Even though she was working, she needed to pay off her student loans, because she paid for school herself. She had done a lot of performing before college, and was told she should compete in a scholarship pageant.

Maryalice won the title of Miss New York in 1990 and went on to compete for the title of Miss America. During the process, she was interviewed by a professional television host. The interview was not what she expected “ it was awful, as she described it.

The man obviously didn't do his homework. He wasn't prepared and barely even skimmed my bio, she said, I thought to myself, ˜Wow I can do a much better job.'  Maryalice is religious and believes God sends signals to people. This was her signal to become what she was meant to be “ a broadcast journalist.

Marissa, on the other hand, had her heart set on broadcast journalism. She spent four years at Niagara University as a communications studies major and a criminal justice minor and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She went on to the master's program at Syracuse University.

She was very active in the NU Community, serving all four years in the Niagara University Student Government Association and became the program director of NUSGA in her senior year. She was a member of

Phi Sigma Sigma and worked sporadically for the communications department newspaper. She also had an internship with the public relations department.

Marissa described her influence to go into broadcast journalism as two-fold. First, she disliked sitting behind a desk all day. The second factor was she loved writing and meeting new people.

I felt like journalism was the best way to do that, but TV was just more fun, she said. It's just more fun because of the visual, and you have video and all that.

For Marissa, broadcast journalism seemed like a better choice, because putting words to pictures creates a visual for the audience.

One of the classes at NU that demonstrated the visual perspective was TV production, currently called video lab and production. At Syracuse, Marissa learned to actually work in a news environment and how to do live shots.

No day is a typical day in the life of a news anchor. Both Maryalice and Marissa can concur with this statement. Maryalice has been with Channel 2 for 16 years and Marissa has been on staff for four years. Both women have dealt with ups and downs.

What a broadcaster considers a good news week could include the good, the bad and the ugly. In one recent week, three major stories broke out: the Mo Hassan trial jury verdict, the death of a fallen marine, and the Congressman Chris Lee scandal.

Maryalice and Marissa reported on all three stories.

In cases such as the Mo Hassan trial, where a man beheaded his wife, and the Chris Lee scandal, where a politician suddenly resigned after his offensive, half-naked picture was leaked on one of the dating sections of craigslist, it would seem easy to be biased. However, biases and judgments are not tolerated in the newsroom. Maryalice said, Championing a side is a good way to get fired.

The news environment is all about professionalism “ even in controversial cases such as the Hassan trial and the Lee scandal.

Maryalice and Marissa both stated it is necessary to remain objective in order to be a good and accurate reporter. Each party should be presented fairly and unbiased in every case. Maryalice stated, I don't have a problem being unbiased. I think it is something you learn to do “ to divorce yourself of your own personal feelings and personal learnings.

Similarly, Marissa said, You have to keep your opinions out of the story and report the facts. You have to hear from both sides and be balanced.

So, what kind of hours do news anchors work if they are only on air for 30 minutes at a time? On-air time is the shortest part of the day. Maryalice and Marissa normally work from 3 to 11:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, Monday is also reporting day for Maryalice. She is currently doing a special series on breast cancer.

From 1:30 to 3 p.m., Maryalice meets up with photographers and shoots interviews. At 3 p.m., the station holds an editorial meeting, where potential stories are discussed. Each anchor and reporter is assigned a story. Marissa leaves the building at 4:15 p.m. to conduct interviews. Later she logs tapes, writes stories and, by 9 p.m., hands the stories off to be edited.

Both women write stories from scratch, write stories for the Web, and write stories for the morning show. They also do their own hair and makeup.

Maryalice and Marissa find their work very rewarding, and both women have worked very hard to be in the position they are in today.

Maryalice loves reporting live breaking news and finds it fulfilling. She refers to it as an adrenaline rush. Earlier this month, when the Lee scandal broke, the rest of the planned script for that newscast was thrown out. There was no teleprompter to read off of.  

The ability to relay the facts of the story, accurately and intelligently, makes a good anchor “ and that is exactly what Maryalice did.  She has learned to be an outstanding reporter, and recently won the New York Emmy Award for Best News Anchor, making her the first Buffalo-area news anchor to receive such an honor.

I just love what I do, she said with passion in her voice.

Marissa finds it rewarding when viewers learn from the news. I love meeting viewers and to know that we at Channel 2 make a difference in their lives, she said. She also stated it is a great feeling knowing the news Channel 2 reports is helpful to viewers.

Maryalice and Marissa offered advice to students who are thinking about going down the broadcast journalism career path.

Even though some NU students complain of the liberal arts education “ having to take what some refer to as unnecessary classes “ Maryalice explained this so-called theory is wrong.

Philosophy and religion are very helpful to understanding social problems, she said. She also stated, My Niagara education continues to enrich me.

Maryalice still uses the information she learned from years ago to help her in her occupation. She said students need to work hard and ask questions. The professors are knowledgeable and make time to talk to students, she said.

Marissa wants students to take three things into consideration with broadcast journalism: internships, making the most of internships, and knowing exactly what is going on around the world.

She stressed internships are very important for getting your foot in the door. The internship should be something a student really wants to do.

In journalism, it is important for a person to be well-rounded. They should know the most up-to-date information about politics, the government and the rest of the world. She also advised students to familiarize themselves in the business by watching great journalists.

My job is not about being on TV, she said. Being on TV is the least amount of my worries.

With the combination of Marissa's hard work and talent, she has found a career she excels in and loves. People need to find something they love to do and do it.

Maryalice anchors the 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, and Marissa anchors the 10 p.m. news on WGRZ's sister station, WNYO-TV. Marissa also reports for the 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.

For more information on the anchors, visit wgrz.com.

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