Meet Deborah Roberts: a multi-time Emmy and a Peabody Award winning Journalist who is one of the most respected voices in American broadcast journalism. With over three decades of experience, Deborah began her career as a reporter for WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia. She later joined NBC News in 1990, but left in 1995 for ABC News and has been working for the network ever since. At ABC, Deborah holds the current title of "Senior National Affairs Correspondent" for: "Nightline", "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight with David Muir". She was also recently promoted to "Contributing Anchor" at 20/20.
Deborah has covered a wide range of topics, including politics, business, and entertainment. Beyond her work as a journalist, she is known for her advocacy and activism. She has been a vocal supporter of diversity in the media industry, and, has spoken out on issues of race, gender, and equality. Her contributions to the field of journalism have made her a role model for aspiring journalists.
We had the absolute honor of spending a few hours in Deborah’s beautiful NYC home to talk about her incredible career path and highlights, her new book: Lessons Learned and Cherished: The Teacher Who Changed My Life, motherhood perspective alongside husband: Al Roker, while styling some of her favorite ELEVEN SIX Spring knitwear. Getting some time in Deborah’s busy schedule in the midst of her book launch, stepping off a plane the day prior from reporting at the London Coronation, on top of her everyday career commitments, it solidified that Deborah truly is: one inspirational, super woman!
Can you share some of your background, where you were born/raised and what led you to take the path to become a journalist/reporter?
I was born in small town Georgia during segregation. I went to black schools until 4th grade when integration finally opened up a different world for me. I later had a 6th grade English teacher who demanded excellence and sparked a fire in me to aim higher and to feel confidence which later fueled my ambitions.
Your career scope of work is prolific, winning multiple Emmy's, travelling, and reporting from numerous countries and covering significant and challenging world events. What about your workstyle and values do you believe has been your success?
I've also won a Peabody award, which I'm deeply proud of after reporting on the tragic Breonna Taylor story for ABC 20/20. I would like to think that my disciplined work ethic and willingness to travel and work long hours with enthusiasm and determination have helped me succeed. I learned early on the importance of resilience even after a disappointing performance on air would make me a better reporter. I also had the good fortune of having the legendary Barbara Walters as a mentor who challenged and pushed me.
What do you love most about your work and then what have been some of the greatest challenges over the years?
I love traveling the world and meeting people I might otherwise never have a reason to speak with. Who'd ever expect to interview Celine Dion, or Michelle Obama or an inmate on death row fighting for a new trial in a questionable conviction. It has, however, been difficult as a mom to occasionally miss a school play or to be on the phone at the airport with a teary daughter when a beloved hamster died. I've occasionally declined an assignment in favor of a family obligation and
felt guilty. Being a working mom with a demanding job is challenging at all times.
Can you share a little about your day-to-day schedule? What time does your day start and then roll out on a GMA day?
My daily schedule varies. If I'm reporting for GMA, I wake up at 5 am to get to the studio in time for hair and makeup and to go on air. Then I typically come home, go for a run or to the gym and then back to ABC to work on research or writing for a 20/20 report or perhaps to conduct an interview for a Nightline special. But the next day I may come in at 10am or find myself dashing to the airport at 8am for a flight to my next assignment.
How have you navigated racism throughout your career and what advice do you have to other women of color who are starting out in television/journalism?
I would not stay that race has defined my career. I might say that gender was a greater issue at times. I knew when I began my reporting career that being a Black woman would play some part in how I'm perceived. This was the mid 80s and sexism was quite apparent in many industries. I suspected at times that I wasn't offered some plum assignments due to my race. But I never focused on it. I worked hard at being good at my job and to be qualified for any big story which came along. I have built a reputation as a hard working, hard charging and fair reporter. I'm proud of this.
It is beyond exciting that your new book: Lessons Learned and Cherished: The Teacher Who Changed My Life launched just a few weeks ago (I am loving the book!). It is incredible that you are amplifying the important impact teachers can have on young student’s trajectory. Can you share a teacher or teachers in your early life who significantly influenced your life or path?
For years I have highlighted Mrs. Hardy, my English teacher and how she inspired me when telling me that I was smart and had great potential. It was a huge moment for me which gave me confidence which carried me through other moments. I also had a high school librarian, Kathy Tallon, who taught me yoga and introduced me to the idea of world travel and curiosity. I credit these two women and other teachers with changing my life.
I enjoyed working on that book with Al. I like to say it was his story along with the right story (mine) about how to navigate life. Ha! We both value family and try to make that front and center in our lives. I also talk about how I learned from Al to go easier on myself about parenting and struggles we all face. Many men will tell you that they think they do a good job parenting while many women criticize ourselves needlessly. I've learned to take a page from his book about giving myself more credit.
We also love how you (and sometimes with Al) show up on Social Media LIVE and talk to your audiences about current issues, recent launches (the virtual book launch was wonderful!), or just warmly and authentically turn up and check in. Do you feel that social media has further connected you on deeper, personal level with your following?
Absolutely. I began doing these IG live chats during the pandemic as a way to connect with followers when we were all shut in. I loved sharing my interests and observations and realizing that people were hungry for connection. So I've continued these chats with authors, entertainers and even my daughter who's living in Paris. It's a way to have fun and to find a creative few moments during these troubling and stressful times.
As parents of three children, how did you manage to balance being parents with both you and your husband's demanding, successful careers? What do you believe has been instilled in your children today as young adults from observing your careers through their lives?
I have often felt guilty about working so much since my job requires unwavering focus and commitment. But I was heartened recently when my 24 year old daughter told me how much she admires my work and success and how she's learned about the importance of a strong work ethic from me. It's exciting to hear my kids say they're proud of me as an ambitious woman and a new author. I hope I've imparted a good example to them about following your dreams and preserving the value of family.
What are your favorite ways to unwind and switch off when you are not working?
I'm an avid fitness enthusiast. So, running in the park or working out at the gym brings me calm. I also love reading and a getaway to a spa or a nice trip to Greece or Paris.
What is a series/movie/book did you just read or watch that you loved?
The series was a feast for the imagination and the eyes. I've also enjoyed Abbott Elementary, Ted Lasso and Shrinking recently. Nice television or streaming distractions during busy times.
Aside from your fantastic new book launch do you have anything exciting in the pipeline you can share?
I'm working on a few true crime stories for 20/20 now and just finished reporting on the coronation of King Charles. Let's see what the summer brings...
How did you discover ELEVEN SIX and what does the brand mean to you?
I think I met Catherine at the Field and Supply event a couple of years back and realized that I had seen the brand somewhere. I fell in love with a pale blue sweater and skirt set and her off white boots and decided I had to explore her look. I got so many compliments on the outfit that I tried another sweater. And then another and another. And I'm a big fan now!
Which ELEVEN SIX knitwear pieces have been your recent favorites and why?
I love them all!