Get connected on social media — For those of us that started out in news before there was no such a thing as social media, it has taken us a while to recognize that it is the most powerful tool there is to reach viewers. Yes, that means even more powerful than television. Media outlets need to embrace social media because it is here to stay.
As a part of our series about “the 5 steps we can take to win back trust in journalism” I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cathleen Trigg-Jones.
Cathleen Trigg-Jones is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, producer, and CEO of the multimedia entertainment company Catscape Productions, which is best known for producing the hit docu-series We are the Joneses, previously on the DiscoveryLife Channel and BET Centric.
Her combined business savvy and passion for storytelling have led to a diverse and expansive career in front of and behind the camera, including a stint as press assistant to Former Vice President Joe Biden at his Delaware senate office. Cathleen started her career as a television news reporter and anchor, climbing the ranks from Delaware to New York, where she was a reporter and anchor for My9 and Fox 5
News broadcasts. She has also co-starred in more than a dozen TV shows and films, including Power, Madam Secretary, House of Cards, Homeland, Disney’s Enchanted, and All Eyes On Me.
Just as accomplished behind the camera, Cathleen prides herself on knowing how to do almost every job in her production and marketing company, founded in 2006. She has led the marketing efforts for her husband’s plastic surgery practice, growing it from a single office in the basement of their Harlem townhouse to a thriving business with nine offices around the country.
As a producer, Cathleen has an eye for creating and producing television and film projects responsible, entertaining, and socially charged. It is determined to use her talents to impact how women are portrayed in front of and behind the camera.
In keeping with her mission to empower women and young girls, Cathleen utilizes her live, virtual- production expertise to launch iWoman TV — an OTT network and app featuring female-centric content made by women, about women, for everyone.
In her spare time, Cathleen is a motivational speaker and emcee for events and fundraising galas. She has received numerous awards for her professional and philanthropic work from organizations such as Black Women In Media; Girlz Talk: Lift As We Climb Award; The BOSS Network: Influencers Award; The Women’s Image Network; BMW — Women of Excellence, and the Essex County CASA “Child’s Hero Award.” She is a member of Columbia University’s Double Discovery Board, New York Women in Film and Television, The Screen Actors Guild, The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, The National Association of Black Journalists, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and a host of other organizations.
A proud mother of four, Cathleen is dedicated to helping underserved women and children around the world. Through her foundation “Trigg House,” a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization that provides financial assistance, life skills, career training, and other services to those aging out of the foster care system. As a former foster child, Cathleen wants to use her story to inspire others who have been impacted by the foster care system to show them there is a way out of unfortunate circumstances. She is a sworn New York State Court Appointed Advocate for Foster Children (CASA), and also completed her certification to become a foster parent.
In addition to launching iWomanTV, Cathleen is currently working on several original series and documentaries, including one that traces her own adoption story and the search for her birth parents.
Thank you so much for joining us. Before we dive in, our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you share with us the “backstory” about how you got started in your career?
From the time I was about 7-years-old, I told everyone I knew that I was going to be on television one day. I spent my entire childhood acting in school and community plays, and dreaming of being a talk show host and actress and living in New York City. My parents were very strict and I couldn’t go out a lot, so I would sit in my room and tape these pretend interviews with some of the biggest celebrities; I played the host asking the questions and the celebrity answering them. At the time, I didn’t know what journalism was, but I loved the art of interviewing people. I would study Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey, who was an anchorwoman in Baltimore, and I dreamed of having my own talk show where I could be the one telling people’s stories and asking the tough questions I didn’t feel even they were comfortable asking. Fast forward to the historically black, Delaware State University where I started as a nursing and theater major, before switching to journalism my sophomore year. It is where I realized I was a really good writer. I became assistant editor of the student newspaper and co-founder of the mass communication’s club. I interned at a local television radio station, which turned into my first two on-air jobs after I graduated from college, and the rest is history. Every job pretty much fell into my lap all the way up to becoming a news anchor and reporter in the #1 television market, New York City.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I read this daily inspiration book over 10 years ago, yet it still leaves me asking myself the question daily: What is my purpose and what on earth am I hear for. This question has sent me on a 10-year journey of self-discovery and figuring out my purpose and truth in life. I tell everyone I know and work with that the most important funding you can make, is the funding in finding out your life’s purpose. It changes everything once you discover the answer; relationships, decisions about jobs and finances, and where you should be focussing your attention will all unfold effortlessly.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
One of the most interesting things that have happened over the course of my career was spending a year working for President-elect Joe Biden. Being from Delaware, I had always known of Biden as he was one of the two United States Senators from Delaware. But working with him was a life-altering experience. I became a mother my sophomore year in college, so I when I graduated I had no choice but to really hit the ground running and figure out how I was going to get my career off the ground as a single mother and start making money. I had been working in radio and television for about 2-years when I ran into then-senator Biden, coming off of an Amtrak train from Washington one day. He didn’t immediately recognize me because I was dressed down, but he saw me struggling and picked up my stroller and carried my little girl off the train. After a quick exchange of gratitude, he asked me to come work for him. I started the job as his Delaware Press Assistant two weeks later and I credit it as one of the defining moments that changed my life. Aside from all of the things I learned about politics and government, Joe Biden set the bar for me for how people should be treated, and the need to always pay if forward in life.
Can you share the most humorous mistake that you made when you first started? Can you share the lesson or take away you learned from it?
One of my most memorable “Blooper” moments was when I was just starting out as a reporter in Delaware and on live TV, and our entire news team was broadcasting the 6 o’clock news live from the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. I was so proud that I had bumped into actress Linda Carter vacationing at the beach with her family and convinced her to do a live interview with me. At the time Linda Carter was the hottest thing in Hollywood for her role as Wonder Woman so it was a really big deal that she was visiting our small town, and I got her for an interview. I was all set to go live, and when the anchors tossed to me to introduce my surprise celebrity guest, I introduced her as “Super Woman” instead of “Wonder Woman.” We shared an awkward laugh and I cleaned it up on air with a great, fun interview that followed. She was a really great sport about it, but I learned to always take the time to prep myself and get my facts straight before speaking, especially on live television.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am so excited about launching iWoman TV in 2021. iWoman TV is a streaming digital network and platform centered around diversity and inclusion. While the goal of iWoman TV is to create a safe space for female content creators to share and tell their stories through their own authentic voice, the goal is not to further discriminate against anyone. We believe it is important to meet female creators, entertainers, influencers, and business leaders where they are, as opposed to trying to force all women to fit into one tiny box dictated by what society has decided they should be. It is time to change the narrative for women and girls around the globe by creating content that is more representative of the female experience as told through their own lens. Finally, we are determined to shatter any remaining glass ceilings and eliminate the need for women to have to continue to fight to get into doors where they are not wanted by creating a space that has no ceiling.
What advice would you give to your colleagues in the industry, to thrive and not “burnout”?
Plan and pray. The easiest way to get burned out is to set unrealistic goals for yourself and forget to schedule personal time to connect with the outside world. Whether it be exercising, socializing, meditating, or worshiping, how you spend your downtime has a direct impact on how effective and efficient you are with your work time.
Warren Buffett gets asked all the time what his key to success is, and contrary to what one might think, his answer is not working 100 hours per week. In fact, quite the opposite, Buffett says his key to success is focus. Don’t work harder, work smarter. Focus on realistic goals you can accomplish in a day as opposed to trying to chip away at an entire mountain in one day. Nothing can stress you out more than feeling like you have worked countless hours and accomplished nothing.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main parts of our interview. According to this Gallup poll 45% of Americans trust the mass media. As an insider, are there 5 things that editors and newsrooms can do to increase the levels of trust? Can you give some examples?
- Get connected on social media — For those of us that started out in news before there was no such a thing as social media, it has taken us a while to recognize that it is the most powerful tool there is to reach viewers. Yes, that means even more powerful than television. Media outlets need to embrace social media because it is here to stay.
- It used to be that the news had to be fair and balanced, and non-partisan. That is no longer the case. If newsrooms want to restore trust, they will need to separate fact from opinion because the lines have become blurred.
- Put more diverse people in front of the camera. People tend to be drawn to and trust those who look like them.
- Add more diversity at the top and bottom of the newsroom pyramid. Today viewers have access to so much content so the way to communicate and engage with them has to be authentic. If you don’t have diverse representation at the top of the chain, how can reach a diverse audience? Diversity has to be represented in every single department in order for the opinions to change.
- Become a part of the community you are trying to reach. Hire talent that is connected to the community and give them opportunities to be outside, supporting local businesses and efforts, showing viewers that they look like them, walk in their same circle, worship with them, and come from the same place as them.
As you know, since 2016, the term ‘fake news” has entered common usage. Do you think this new awareness has made a change in the day-to-day process of how journalists craft stories? Can you give some examples?
The notion of “Fake News” has made it more difficult for credible journalists and news outlets to deliver the news the way they once did. It is no longer acceptable to take an expert’s word for something when reporting the news. Journalists are constantly having to fact check and update what they consider reliable sources. It is not a bad thing, however, what “fake news” has done is hold everyone more accountable for the news they report to ensure the stories they are telling serve a purpose and will not do a disservice to the people watching.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Follow your passion, not the money — In order to be successful at anything in life, it requires your complete focus and attention. If you don’t love what you do, you are wasting valuable time in life that you may not have. Figure out what you are an expert in, what you love to do, and starting doing it. The money will follow.
- Get a few good mentors — I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having an amazing mentor, or mentors in your life. I have different mentors for different areas of my life.
- Surround yourself with cheerleaders. You already know all the things you have done wrong or are not the best at. You need people around you who celebrate the many things you are amazing at and genuinely want to see you succeed. So, block out the noise from the nay-sayers who don’t understand your vision or where you are going. Everyone will jump on the bandwagon of a successful person, but you can’t include everyone in your idea before you get there.
- Faith and Fear cannot live in the same sentence. Either you believe in yourself and your ideas enough to go out on a limb and make them happen, or you don’t. Take the leap of faith and make it happen!
- Take time to smell the flowers — Sometimes we get so caught up in our work and all that we are trying to accomplish that we forget to notice all of the blessings at the moment. Work will always be there, but if you don’t take time out for the little things, that are the important things in life, like noticing the beautiful flowers, cherishing precious moments with family and friends, traveling the world and experiencing new things, then you will wake up one day and question what it was all for.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am already doing it. iWoman TV is not just another network, is a movement to change the way women and girls see themselves by changing the images and stories that get told about them on television and in the media. It is a celebration of the many accomplishments of women that often go unnoticed. Women are the center of the universe. We give birth to life, yet we are still largely treated as second class citizens. We still earn less than male counterparts, and we are still forced to live according to stereotypes that no longer serve us. We have been pitted against one another for so long that we don’t even know how to support each other. We are changing that by creating a platform that will give all women and girls a voice to be who they were created to be and the foundation to stand on.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Cathleen Trigg-Jones on FB and Linkedin
@Cattrigg on IG & Twitter
@iWomantV on FB, twitter and IG
Thank you so much for your time you spent on this. We greatly appreciate it, and wish you continued success!