Journalism

Television Newscasters

What woman anchored the newscast The MacNeil/Lehrer Report?

Charlayne Hunter-Gault (1942–) was the first black woman to anchor a national newscast, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, in 1978. She left that post in 1997 when she moved to South Africa. In 1999 she joined CNN in Johannesburg, South Africa, as bureau chief. She was born in Due West, South Carolina, and moved to Atlanta with her parents and siblings in 1954. In January 1961 she and Hamilton Holmes were the first two black students to attend the University of Georgia, where they were confronted with a student riot protesting their admission. She started college at Detroit’s Wayne State University while waiting for a federal court order that would allow her to attend the University of Georgia. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1963. Hunter-Gault’s first job after graduation was as a secretary for The New Yorker magazine. While there she contributed articles to a feature section and wrote short stories.

A Russell Sage Fellowship allowed her to study social science at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1967. She edited articles for Trans-Action while there and covered the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C. This coverage led to her first television job as investigative reporter and anchorwoman of the evening local news at WRC-TV in Washington. A ten-year position at the New York Times followed, after which she went on to MacNeil/Lehrer. Hunter-Gault says her interest in journalism began at age twelve, with the comic strip reporter Brenda Starr as her idol. She gives the University of Georgia credit for her style of reporting. The university awarded her the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 1986. She also won two Emmys for her work with PBS.



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