Black Is Beautiful is a series of interviews with interesting, intelligent and immersed-in-their-passion local African American women.
In March, award-winning journalist Symone Woolridge joined the TMJ4's news anchor team as the midday anchor.
Woolridge is originally from Evanston, Ill. and most recently worked for news station WREG-TV in Memphis, Tennessee. She was the station's first breaking news anchor for the weekday morning show and had her own weekly segment called "Bright Spot," which highlighted positive local news.
Woolridge brought her talent and positivity to Milwaukee and recently chatted with OnMilwaukee about her childhood, her love for her career and her honest feelings about cheese.
OnMilwaukee: Can you give us a brief timeline of your life - where you've lived, attended school and worked?
Symone Woolridge: I was born and raised in Evanston, Ill and most of my family still lives there. I went to a K-8 school in the city before entering high school. My family then moved to Gurnee, so I went to high school at Warren Township in Gurnee. For college, I attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where I received my bachelor's degree.
When did you know you wanted to be in media? Did you have any people or experiences who inspired you?
I always knew I wanted to work in media. I used to watch court shows and investigative pieces with my grandmother all the time. It was something that became a part of my daily routine. My grandmother would watch Nancy Grace, shows like "Judge Judy" and local Chicago news at 5 and 6 p.m. every single day, this was like clockwork. I loved sitting there and watching coverage with her. 'Til this day, I still watch and record the shows and news teams we watched together. When I would sit there with her, I consistently saw powerful women on TV, holding people accountable and it really gave me hope for my own life and career. I wanted to be just like them.
Every morning in high school while getting dressed, I would hear ABC7 in Chicago playing in my parents' room. I listened while I was in the other room and would sometimes peek in to watch. Some of the anchors in Chicago right now I remember watching and admiring when I was young. It's very much a full circle moment for me. These are the journalists I wanted to become and now I'm doing the same work.
How is this work fulfilling for you?
This is a question that's really hard to answer because journalism work is so fulfilling to me in so many ways. Since it's something I've always wanted to do, the fulfillment of actually doing it is just one piece. We work for the community, so I'm fulfilled by our neighbors, I'm fulfilled by watching our work change lives and press issues, I'm fulfilled by seeing the smiles from people who are so appreciative of what coverage has done for them.
I can't even count how many people I've built relationships with after telling their stories. This isn't just about finding an interview to air, it's truly about making a difference in people's lives. There are many people who reach out, feeling voiceless or unheard and want a platform to express what they're feeling. It's so rewarding to be able to give them that.
As for the work that I do, I know we live in such uncertain times and if I can help one person feel safer, I've done my job. Journalists aren't against you. We are people. We work for you, and we really want communities to understand that.
Now, more than ever, our work is so important. Just to build and have the trust of people in the community is fulfilling to me.
You moved here from Memphis. What is something you miss about Memphis? What is something you can't wait to try or experience in Milwaukee?
I absolutely love Memphis. People might say, "Oh, you probably miss the weather and the food," which is true, but honestly, Memphis is like a second home. Connecting with people in the community is really important to me so when I think about Memphis, I think about Memphians. That's what I miss most about the city. I truly feel like I have another set of family there, but I'm really excited about getting to know people in Milwaukee. I can't wait to connect. I'm also a foodie and I love to support local businesses. I'm not a huge cheese lover so bear with me, but I'm still eager to try every local place in Milwaukee. I've already tasted quite a few and loved every bite!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I just had a baby boy, so I have been soaking up all the snuggles and time with him and my family. I enjoy walking every day and spending time outdoors. I'm a big basketball fan so I spend free time watching sports – Go Bulls & Go Grizzlies! I also love reading, playing with my German Shepherd Ace, eating tacos (I'm accepting Milwaukee recommendations!) and catching up on my favorite court shows.
How do you bring important and unique perspective/voice to TMJ4?
I think everyone has a perspective and voice to bring to the table. In my life so far, I've lived in a few different states and have really gotten to know people in different areas – how they live, how they think, what's important to them, etc. That perspective helps when you approach people in similar situations. I'm a young Black woman and I relate to a lot of other young Black women and men and their everyday experiences but that's not my only perspective. I'm a first-generation college student. I'm a new mom. I'm a woman who worked three jobs to get me through school while also leading a journalism organization chapter. We all have so many layers and I think that's our perspective: what we've seen, been through, etc. and that perspective gives us our voice.
I'm super approachable so if you ever see me out and about, feel free to say hi. I love a good grocery store chat.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.