Born and raised in the 8 Miles Rd area, Vicki Yates, 61, afternoon anchor for News Channel 5, said growing up in Detroit was a very diverse experience.
“It was a changing neighborhood,” she said. “It had typically been a White neighborhood and it was starting to change to African-American. There were a lot of fights and not a lot of good things, but it was still an upbeat place.”
She said many people there were working for the auto industry and, at the time, the auto industry was doing very well. She said people saw a chance to move up, and it was a good place to live.
In 1990, Vicki and her three children moved to Nashville.
“Detroit is where I’m from and I do love it, but Nashville feels more like home.”
MAKING a HOME in NASHVILLE
Before Nashville, Vicki worked in Pittsburg at KDKA-TV as a weekend anchor and a reporter. One day she got a call from News Channel 5 saying they were interested in her coming to Nashville.
She said the only image she had of Nashville was Hee Haw, a televised comedy/variety show with a country twist.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’m from Detroit. Nashville and I are not going to work,'” she said with a smile. “They told me to come down and talk to them and see what I thought. I agreed to go and if nothing else, I thought, at least, I get to say I went to Nashville for a day.”
Vicki said she was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t outhouses and people weren’t walking around with cowboy hats and chewing straws. After visiting the station, she went back Pittsburg to think about it. Newly divorced and with three children under the age of three, Vicki made the tough but necessary decision to move her family to Nashville.
“It was such a big adjustment,” she said. “I remember walking downtown and someone spoke to me. They said hello and smiled and I remember grabbing my purse and thinking they were trying to rip me off. Of course, they were just being friendly but in Detriot, that’s just the way things were.”
Vicki said she hates to say it and added Detroit isn’t that bad of a place but said she wasn’t used to people being as polite as they were in Nashville.
“Everyone says it but there really is Southern hospitality, and it didn’t take long for me to embrace it,” she said. “Nashville certainly has open arms.
Now, 26 years laters, Vicki said being in Nashville and being at News Channel 5 just feels right.
“I feel like this is home now,” she said. “I love Detroit and I’ll go back and visit but this feels like home.”
She said one of the best things about being on television is that she has friends everywhere.
“Even when I go out and I don’t know people, somebody has seen me or either knows the station and they are really friendly,” she said.
“It’s such a plus for anyone who comes to Nashville because we really do have open arms and you are accepted and a part of a community here.”
INTO the NEWS
Vicki went to Michigan State (“Go Spartans,” she added.), and said she’s always loved to write.
Originally wanting to be an artist, her mother guided her away from that so that she could be stable and earn a comfortable living. As a freshman, Vicki thought about advertising. She thought she would be able to write and be creative, but once she got into it she didn’t really like it.
“I went to my advisor and asked her what I should do. I told her, ‘I want to write, but I don’t want to do advertising.’ She told me to try telecommunications, so I did,” she said. “I changed my major and that’s how I got into news. We had to do radio news, broadcast and newspapers. We did it all because we had to.”
While in school, Vicki got an internship at a local TV station.
“Back then, interns did everything. I learned how to splice film and put it back together, I swept floors and did anything they asked me to,” she said. “One day the general assistant editor came up to me and said one the reporters was sick so they needed me to go out and get a story.”
Vicki said she was sent out with a photographer that day and remembers being so nervous that she had to hold her arm out of camera shot so that it wasn’t shaking. At the end of the internship, she was asked to stay on the team for another six months and she accepted.
After that, she went back to Detroit to become a news writer. She worked closely with the anchors and knew they were making more money than her so she decided she wanted to try to move up.
“I was writing and I thought if I can write and be in front of the camera too then that’s a win, win situation,” she said. “So truthfully that’s how I get in front of the camera. It was a financial situation.”
Vicki went to Toledo shortly before moving to Cincinnati where she spent four years working with Nick Clooney, George Clooney’s father.
“I knew George before he was George Clooney,” she said. “He was a college kid when I knew him but even then he was very charismatic and you could tell he had something special.”
Vicki said she loved working with his father. She called Nick an old-time news guy who checked her facts and taught how to think about what she was saying and who she was affecting.
“I learned a lot from Nick and it was a good lesson.”
After Cincinnati, Vicki went to work in Pittsburg for five years before moving to Nashville.
EVOLUTION of NEWS and NASHVILLE
From film to smart cards, Vicki said the biggest thing happening in the news industry is technology.
“You have access to so many things that you didn’t have access to before,” she said. “You can send a story back in seconds whereas before you had to rush it back. Now, there are no limits.”
She said she wonders what it’s going to be like in 10 years when she’s no longer in the business. Even with so much change with technology in TV news, she said the essence of it all has stayed the same.
“People want to know what’s going on. They don’t want you to beat around the bush. They don’t want you to make flowery statements. They just want to know what is the story and how does it affect them.”
Along with the growth of technology, Vicki has also seen the growth of the city she calls home, especially within the last few years.
She said the growth of Nashville is a wonderful thing, but also shared some honest concerns of hers.
“Growth is progress. Growth is power,” she said. “But also, it’s scary that so many people are being displaced. It bothers me that people are being uprooted from their homes and big homes, that most people can’t afford, are going in.”
Vicki said what frustrates her is when developers put two tall-skinnies on one lot in neighborhoods where it clearly stands out.
“If you’re going to do that, at least, make it look comparable to the other homes so it’s not such a big contrast,” she said.
Vicki said she understands that’s progress and success and that’s what happens when you have a hot city, but she said she doesn’t want Nashville to lose its charm and identity.
“When I first came here it wasn’t overgrowing, and you didn’t see cranes every time you looked out a window,” she said. “I just miss the family feel of it and I hope it doesn’t lose that. I think it has the potential.”
She said another concern of her is transportation and the amount of traffic throughout the city.
“I know there’s only so much you can do. I understand that. You can’t build a subway in Nashville. That’s just not going to happen, but I wish the Music City Star was a little more active.”
She said the Music City Star is great about bringing people in and taking them home from work but said the times just aren’t frequent enough to make a difference on the roads.
She said if the city expanded on transportation and different modes of it there would be less traffic downtown. Coming from places where there was mass transportation, she said that is something Nashville is really behind on.
VICKI the VOLUNTEER
Vicki is very active in her community.
She serves on the board of Safe Haven, a nonprofit organization that allows families who are homeless to stay together until they get on their feet.
She said she didn’t realize that in Tennessee if a homeless family has a son that is over the age of 13, the son would be taken away from the family because the state believes they are a negative influence.
“Safe Haven encourages homeless families to work toward having a home, having jobs and going to school, and I’m a big fan of that,” she said.
Vicki also tries to get involved with a lot of schools.
At NewsChannel5, she does School Patrol.
“School Patrol is a program promoting upbeat stories in our local school systems,” she said. “I’ve tried to get more involved with young women. A lot of our girls, especially the middle school aged girls, need assistance because the imagines they see aren’t really what they need to see.”
Vicki said popular shows like Love & Hip-Hop do not accurately portray the world for what it really is and it’s important that young people know that.
“For them, it’s about getting attention so that they can be on the next season,” she said she tells young people about reality TV shows. “I tell them please don’t do the same things that you see.”
She said she told her daughter the same thing when she was younger.
“You have to be aware of the people you hang out with and you have to be careful what you put out there too.”
Vicki said she became involved in different areas of the city because she saw a need for it and because she had children.
“With my kids, things came up,” she said. “Are other kids going through this? Are other kids being told they are less than because you’re not this or that? To me, it’s important that people know their worth. I think that’s where I got my drive to be involved with children in particular.”
Vicki has a daughter, 29, and twin sons, 27.
Vicki said a community is a place of warmth and place of reaching out and not being afraid of being offensive.
“If I see someone who needs some help then, of course, I’m going to try to help you,” she said.
“Community is knowing what’s going on with the people around you, what’s going on in the atmosphere around you, being a part of it and not just a spectator.”
She said being a part of a community means knowing people have your back, and you’ve got theirs.
“Everything that’s going on in the world affects you. It may take a little bit longer to get to you, but it’s going to affect you.”
She said if something concerns someone they should talk to other people about it.
She said a lot of times when people look at the news they see things like school systems in disarray. Vicki encouraged parents and people in the community to go the school and go to the meeting when things like that happen.
“It’s easy to sit back and complain but if you don’t go and demand something be done, and maybe collectively because more can be done collectively, then you have nothing to say. If you don’t get involved, you have nothing to say. You have to be involved and you have to be a part of it.”
Overall, she said most Nashvillians are involved and if they don’t show up for something they will email or Facebook their problems or their concerns. She said that’s a good start but you have to put real time into getting changes done.
In October of 2011, Vicki was asked to interview the president of the United States, Barack Obama at the White House.
“My jaw dropped when they asked. I was jumping around inside but trying to play it cool on the outside.”
Vicki met and interviewed the president in the Diplomat Room at the White House.
“He was just the nicest guy,” she said. “People always ask about that and he was exactly what he looks like on TV. He was comfortable and very easy to talk to.”
Over the years, Vicki has interviewed different kinds of people and said some of the greatest people she’s spoken to have been the names no one would know.
“They were just common people with good stories and those are the ones you really remember.”
Vicki said one of the stories that stick with her most has to do with a young woman who was a high school junior at the time. The high school teen babysat and used her money to buy Christmas gifts for children who didn’t have anything.
“That was an important story to me because she didn’t have to do that. It was her choice,” she said. “Children who wouldn’t otherwise have anything had presents for Christmas Day because of this young lady.”
Vicki, who is the winner of 5 Emmy Awards, said it’s the stories that hit under the radar that hit a certain part of her and the community.
Tune into News Channel 5 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to catch Vicki Yates leading the news in your neighborhood!
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Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
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