Chelsea King greets “Good Morning” to Charlottesville, Va. every weekday as a reporter for CBS 19 News. But long before that, she was a kid growing up in Person County. And from that time until now, her hometown has always shown up in some way to help prepare her for the next step. Her story reminds us that the village is always there when we need it.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I spent my whole childhood in Person County. I grew up around strong women like my grandmothers, my mother, aunties and cousins. They taught me and showed me black womanhood, and it was a privilege and an honor to see the various complexities of these black women. You have to be resilient—you have to be fearless and strong, but you also have to be vulnerable and confident as a black woman. And you have to be multifaceted. So, taking pieces from each of their experiences and applying those lessons to my own life has made me the person I am today.
I graduated from Person High School in 2008. From there I went to North Carolina A&T State University and I graduated from there with a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications with a concentration in electronic media and a minor in Spanish.
Q) What was your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) In college I got bit by the T.V. production bug and I wanted to work behind the scenes. So after I graduated from college I was very fortunate to be able to work in production at ABC 11. I was there for about five years. While I was there, I then got bit by the reporting bug, and I was able to build relationships with some of the anchors and reporters and even shadow some of the reporters. And I gained a mentor in Tim Pulliam who is from Roxboro. He really pushed me to put out the best work I could put out as a reporter. And I’m so appreciative of him taking the time to work with me. To work on my writing skills, my delivery, and just my overall presence on television. Because what you see on T.V. when you see a reporter or anchor telling you a story, there’s lot of work that goes into that. So I’m just so grateful to him for taking the time to teach me and help me grow. And of course, watching other anchors, watching Tisha Powell, watching Steve Daniels, seeing how they do their work, that was huge for me.
So then when I made the move to reporting, I was fortunate to work in my hometown and cover Roxboro and Person County as staff reporter with the Courier Times for about eight months. While there I was able to cover city and county government. And that’s a lot of grunt work. It was a learning curve for me but I’m so grateful that I got that experience. Because that information is vital to your community. People are looking at you to tell them what’s going on. So, you’re breaking legalese down in a way that your grandma or you seven-year-old cousin can understand. And even though I don’t do that now, I still have the experience. So if I have to cover a city or county meeting, or something in government, I have those skills. So, I’m so grateful to my community for letting me grow in that way.
And of course, now I’m here in Charlottesville, Va. working as a multimedia journalist for CBS 19 News. I cover national news and local news. And at times I may be filling in at the anchor desk for the morning show. I came here two years ago because, while I was on my journey as a reporter, I knew I wanted to get back into T.V. I had made connections from working at ABC 11, which is very important to do because, as people say, your network determines your net worth. So a former colleague suggested I check out this place. I did, and it felt like home. Charlottesville is a medium city, but it still has that small town feel. From Roxboro, we have to go 45 minutes away to Durham or somewhere for recreation, even though I still love my hometown. But here you still get that small town aspect but there is a mall here and other things to do.
And yes, Charlottesville had been in the spotlight just before I came here with the right-wing rally of 2017, but that did not concern me at all. Because as a black woman, racism is something that we aren’t strangers to. And because I understand as a black woman how I have to navigate, I wasn’t afraid. And as a journalist you have to be fearless, anyway. Sometimes you might be sent out to a fire, or a shooting, or a car accident. Or like the national journalists who were sent to D.C. to cover the Capitol on Jan. 6. You have to be fearless in this job. So that rally did not deter me from coming here. It helped attract me to the job, actually. Because even though Charlottesville is mid-sized, a lot happens here. And if an event like that were to happen here again, I could bring my perspective as a black woman.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) I am a part of the Roxboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. One of my motivations for being a part of that, aside from the community service, was because these were some of the black women who inspired me growing up. My mother is in the organization, so I was able to go to events and see these amazing women. In high school I was a part of Jabberwock and I received a scholarship from the organization. So I wanted to give back to the organization that gave to me.
I’m also a part of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). I joined because I wanted to be around people who look like me who understand my struggles while I matriculate through my career.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) First, the work should be acknowledged, right? Women have been contributing to their communities and to the nation throughout history. We have plenty of examples of that. But also, recognizing these accomplishments is aspirational. To actually see women from your community be recognized locally or nationally is motivational to other women and girls because it shows them what they can accomplish. It shows them that they can do anything that they put their minds to.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) I envision more diversity in our leadership. I think that is so important. But not just diversity in our leadership, but diversity in our ideas and our values. I think that is key to continue to move the community forward. Because studies have shown that if you have diversity in ideas and people, that moves you forward. And having that collective of people is better for the community.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who may look to you as motivation?
A) Sometimes we can imprison ourselves with ideas of who we should be, who others want us to be, and even what we do. But its so important to remember who you are and whose you are and know that you are so worthy. You’ve been worthy from birth. Because not knowing your worth can cost you big time. So, at the end of the day, if you just do your best then that’s great. My grandmother used to say, if you can’t be the best then be one of the best.