Breaking News with Valerie Calhoun of Fox 13 Memphis

The Emmy winning news anchor provided important insight on her own journey to the evolving news industry 

Photos by Dreamboat Photography

April’s Women’s Leadership Network luncheon was the second of a stellar lineup for 2024. Mark Heuberger, President of the Chamber, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the event and recognizing the exclusive partner of these ladies’ meetings, Patriot Bank Mortgage. Mark specifically acknowledged the important role Alexis Heinz and Pansy Hall serve in fighting for the Bank to sponsor the Women’s program. Mark welcomed Alexis to the podium to introduce the guest speaker, Valerie Calhoun of Fox 13, WHBQ-TV, and of the station’s marquee AM news program, Good Morning Memphis. She’s won multiple Emmys for her investigative reporting. The accomplished news anchor started her presentation with some personal and professional background.

Born in East Tennessee, she started college at the region’s university, East Tennessee State University. After some time at ETSU, she made the jump to University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She appreciated the immediacy and urgency of the field in college and decided to pursue it for her career. While she wasn’t the most studious of students (her C’s were for ‘Communications’ and her B’s were for Broadcast), Valerie started to gain experience as a country music DJ during her program and struggled to find a broadcasting job after graduating.

Despite her degree and experience, Valerie, found it hard for people to give her a chance. One news director told her that she would never make it because of her “bad hair and bad accent.” But, with her trademark perseverance, she willed herself into a job eventually in small-town- North and South Carolina markets. Known now as a multimedia journalist, then, the role was more informally and accurately titled a ‘one-man band.’ A TV journalist then had to know all the ins and outs of everything, from video production, and writing scripts, to putting together packages. Not just reporting on the news. She recalls starting these jobs without understanding some basic components of the work, including how to shoot and edit video. But with her determination to make it happen, Valerie learned as she went and was always willing to do anything, something her first news director, another woman, saw in her.

After stops in the Carolinas, Alabama, and the Tri-Cities, she made her way to Memphis and FOX 13/ WHBQ-TV in 1995. Something that intrigued her about this opportunity was the Memphis market and that Fox News (and at the time Rupert Murdoch) owned the station, which was rare. Most news stations are owned by private companies. She’s been a constant on the channel for almost twenty-nine years even with multiple station ownership changes and the evolution of the news business. She co-anchors Good Morning Memphis every weekday from 4:30am-10:00am with “the anchor who can do anything” Ernie Freeman.

A large theme of her speech was adapting to change in order to be successful in all areas of one’s life. The news industry has evolved exponentially during Valerie’s thirty plus years in the industry. She’s had to learn to adapt and grow or be left behind. To further show this challenge, only two people from her graduating program are still in the news industry, Valerie and a local anchor in Nashville. For Valerie though, it’s all a rewarding part of the job. Despite all the challenges these adjustments can make, Valerie explained she’s never loved the profession more than she does today. She concluded her presentation with a video showing just how many people and how long it takes to run a morning news program from beginning to end. The people involved are just not the camerapeople and the anchors on the screen. Many people we don’t see, from editors to directors to producers, start their mornings as early as 1:00 am to make sure the most up to date information and story is relayed to audiences. With these changes, she credits the younger generations, Millennials and Gen X, as part of the reason why she still loves what she does. They are dogged in their work ethic and have innovative ideas. The new generation something to welcome in the workplace, Valerie says, not run away from. It can be such an asset, especially in the ever evolving, minute by minute news world.

There were several questions, including ones about hair and makeup routines (Valerie and all on-air talent are responsible themselves for this), her accent, chemistry with co-workers (“you either have it or you don’t” It’s not something that can be faked), and her most impactful story. As a young reporter she covered a coal mine explosion in East Tennessee. The families and young children that were impacted by the loss of their fathers, sons, and brothers was something that she’s never forgotten. Valerie thanked the attendees profusely and shared her graciousness for being a speaker at this event.

Mark returned to the podium and thanked Valerie for her lively remarks and sharing time with some members. Mark highlighted upcoming Chamber events, including the annual Golf Tournament, which is approaching capacity, the Spring Party of the Patio, some of the most fun Chamber events, and the June Women’s Luncheon, who’s speaker, Mary Jean Smith, was in the audience. Lastly, he reminded guest to sign up for the Chamber cruise giveaway, graciously presented by Travel Leaders Collierville and Barbara May. The travel agent, business owner, and 2023 Chamber Person of the Year made some remarks about the lavish cruise, which will be on a brand new Explora Journey I cruise ship and features some beautiful views, both on and off the ship.