Kent State Alumna and Journalist Finds Additional Success on Social Media
Kent State University alumna Jeannette Reyes, ’12, uses TikTok for fun outside of her television anchor responsibilities at FOX 5 Washington, D.C. Last October, Reyes posted a video with her husband using their “anchor talk” voices to decide on choices for dinner. She never expected her video to gain so much momentum.
“This video got 5 million views on Twitter and gained attraction from Jimmy Kimmel and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez commenting and retweeting,” Reyes said. “At that time, I probably had 25,000 followers on TikTok, and since then, it's grown to almost 700,000. After eight months, I definitely underestimated the power of that video and how funny the anchor voice sounds outside of the newsroom environment.”
Reyes is a newscaster for FOX 5 Morning and Good Day D.C. She said that creating content and anchoring can be overwhelming at times, but she finds a nice balance between juggling both duties.
“I can go two to three weeks without posting on social media, and then post two to three times in one week,” Reyes said. “I enjoy it so much because it is not a job, and I don't want to have to meet a certain quota or share more than I'm comfortable posting. I can even find some great content for my shows, but I don’t want to spend all my hours scrolling through TikTok.”
Reyes’ content ideas involve answering specific questions about the broadcast news industry, creating humorous videos in her “anchor talk” voice and showcasing her life inside and outside of the newsroom. She believes her content does so well because she can show another side to her personality, which breaks common stereotypes people have about journalists.
“Being on social media offers another form of transparency in the business at a time where I think journalists have been a little dehumanized,” Reyes said. “I want people to know we have a vested interest in making sure stories are fair and accurate. So, my strategy is to just be authentic, transparent and hopefully informative to people along the way without them even realizing.”
Reyes is also active on Instagram and Twitter, but she enjoys TikTok the most because of the supportive environment her followers have created.
“TikTok is a gold mine for inspiration and interaction,” Reyes said. “My followers end up suggesting a lot of ideas, and they chime in whenever I put out a call for ideas or topics for our show. The response is much more positive on TikTok, probably because the pandemic helped to set that tone, and it allows an additional escape from the world.”
For those interested in making a career out of social media, Reyes’ highest piece of advice is to be authentic.
“People can see from a mile away if you are not being authentic,” Reyes said. “Followers don’t like overproduced content or stuff to fill the silence. Social media presents equal opportunities for all kinds of people to be represented, and it rewards people who are creative and think outside the box.”
Upon graduating from Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Reyes has worked as a reporter and anchor for several ABC affiliated stations in Little Rock, Arkansas; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although Reyes has already had an extensive career, she initially entered Kent State with no intention of pursuing broadcast journalism.
“I joined as an exploratory major, but it wasn’t until a friend encouraged me to look into journalism that I ultimately chose my major,” Reyes said. “I am so grateful I chose journalism and went to Kent State because aside from having really good professors, I had a great hands-on program that put me ahead of the game. Before Little Rock, I had been on the air for four years, so Kent State was perfect in helping me navigate my future career.”
Reyes credits two professors for her success at Kent State: the late Gary Hanson, Professor Emeritus, and Gene Shelton, professor, both of the School of Media and Journalism.
“Professor Hanson was a firm, but really great professor because he was invested in his students and taught us how to be solid journalists,” Reyes said. “Professor Shelton was amazing, too, because he had a lot of heart and passion. For me, he was a living example of someone who could make a difference and loved what he did.”
One invaluable lesson Reyes learned at Kent State was the power of mentorship.
“Journalism can be difficult because there are so many things you have to contend with, like competition, smaller markets and being in the public eye,” she said. “Having someone who can give you feedback, constructive criticism and encouragement has been critical in what I've done in terms of paying it forward and helping mentor other people.”
However, there are some challenges that Reyes never anticipated, like covering emotional topics, time away from family and difficulty connecting with an audience. One challenge that directly impacted Reyes was imposter syndrome, where individuals doubt their abilities and talents and believe they will be exposed as a fraud.
“We brought in a rocket scientist who said he experienced imposter syndrome and a psychologist who gave the substantive and formative part of it,” Reyes said. “After that story, hundreds of people — black, white, female, male — reached out and said they were experiencing the same thing. Through this story, I felt like I had more editorial control because I made sure to include a diversity of guests, to provide practical solutions and to help viewers by giving them the tools to address what they’re experiencing, yet don’t realize.”
Aside from covering some significant stories, Reyes said her greatest accomplishment has been providing more exposure to underrepresented voices and making news more inclusive.
“I go out and find experts that look like the very people or viewers impacted the most, who have the firsthand experience and are willing to talk, but they just have not yet been given an opportunity or seat at the table,” Reyes said. “Additionally, having people reach out and say, ‘I never thought I would see an anchor who looks like me, sounds like me or likes what I like,’ is so important in establishing trust among that audience.”
While Reyes has covered some difficult stories, she is proud of the stories that highlight the goodness of individuals.
“It can be really brutal to see the worst of humanity, but it’s amazing to see humanity’s resilience and how stories you cover can really touch people,” Reyes said, “and how people not only will say good things, but they'll act on it. Relating to the viewer is encouraging, and it is a nice reminder just how great people are in the midst of the world’s craziness.”
Reyes is inspired for the future of journalism in print, broadcast and digital formats, and she is excited to see where it goes.
“Journalists on social media are very compassionate, personable and strive to maintain transparency and strong connections,” Reyes said. “As long as these young journalists love what they do, they can overcome a lot of the challenges early in their careers.”
Find Reyes on TikTok and Instagram @msnewslady.
For more information about Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism, visit www.kent.edu/mdj.