1993, Broadcast Journalism
As the crew prepares for the 11 a.m. newscast at ABC7 Chicago, its lively banter amps up the energy in the studio. The calm and ease with which Judy Hsu and Terrell Brown deliver the news hides just how busy things are behind the scenes.
After 15 years on the morning show in Chicago, Hsu made the move to the 4 p.m. news anchor role in November. It is the first time in 30 years that the female anchor chair has changed hands with the retirement of Linda Yu. “It’s a dream come true,” said Hsu.
Her own story makes fulfillment of that dream even more impressive.
Hsu was 11 years old, and spoke no English, when she immigrated to the United States from Taiwan with her family. Her father, a grand master in tai chi, was invited to teach in Chicago. The family settled in Chinatown, and Hsu set about learning the language — by watching TV.
Hsu links this early exposure to news, and to the stories being shared, with her desire to become a broadcast journalist.
“I love seeing how difference segments of our society interact to make up the whole,” Hsu said.
College was an expectation in her family, and the requirements were few — stay in Illinois and attend the best state school you can get into. The answer was simple: the University of Illinois.
“For me, there was only one choice,” Hsu said.
Her most vivid memories of campus center on the time she spent working at WPGU. She walked from Gregory Hall to the station and back at all hours of the day, working multiple shifts on-air whenever they would fit in between classes. The experiences on campus — including an internship with the legendary Walter Jacobson at WBBM TV, the CBS station in Chicago — made her believe that the job she had dreamed about was possible.
Her parents were not as convinced. Hsu made a deal with them: If she didn’t have a broadcasting job within six months of graduation, she would attend law school. She even took the LSAT and made a backup plan to attend Loyola.
She didn’t need that backup. The first job offer in broadcasting came the day after graduation.
She spent a year and a half at WCIA in Champaign, Illinois, before moving to San Diego as a general assignment reporter. She quickly moved up to the weekend anchor desk and then to the 4 p.m. weekday news.
The call from Chicago came in 2001. She was thrilled to return to her hometown to work at a station she had watched while growing up.
Not only has Hsu covered just about every big Chicago story since then, she has also been a part of one. Her youngest child arrived a bit early – on the Eisenhower Expressway en route to the hospital.
Hsu’s reporting has earned her numerous accolades, including Emmy and San Diego Press Club awards. Her success has also allowed her to shine a light on causes she supports.
Hsu remains connected to her first neighborhood in Chicago through the Chinese American Service League, the largest social service agency for Asian Americans in the Midwest, where she chairs the advisory board. She serves as a role model for immigrants and feels it is a responsibility. Those new to the country can see themselves being successful and making a difference through her example.
She has also returned to Gregory Hall to talk with students and offer career advice.
“Work hard, get good grades — that’s a given,” Hsu said.
But in addition, she recommends that students take the time to intern and work in the environment they aspire to. Job shadowing can also help a student determine what career is right for them.
“Find out if this is really what you want to do,” Hsu said. “You may discover that it isn’t, and that’s OK. This job is not easy. The work-life balance is difficult.”
Hsu’s advice for young professionals: stay true to yourself, grounded and centered.
“To quote Maya Angelou, success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it,” Hsu said. “This couldn’t be truer for broadcast journalism. After having been in the business for 20 years, I think it’s critical that students really take the time to get to know themselves, know what’s important to them and stay true to that inner voice. You will be judged on factors sometimes other than your talent. You can’t let that get inside of your head. You have to love how you do this job!”
Hsu also feels that having a backup plan can work to your advantage. A “plan B” allows you to not feel as stressed when looking for a job. That lower stress level can make a difference in how you present yourself.
Hsu remembers watching Channel 7 as a child, including Yu on the 4 p.m. news. Yu was a role model.
“Watching her allowed me to dream what seemed like the impossible,” Hsu said. “I never thought I would meet her in person, let alone work alongside of her and all of the veteran journalists at ABC7.”
“Appropriately, my first day of anchoring the 4 p.m. news was Thanksgiving Day. I have so much to be thankful for.”
The new schedule is a major change for Hsu and her family. She will now get to see her kids off to school in the morning.
“They won’t know what do to with me at the breakfast table,” Hsu said.
As a bonus, the schedule change will probably mean even greater community involvement as she will be able to stay up a little later.
“I’m looking forward to meeting even more people who are making a difference in our community,” Hsu said. “I can’t tell you how many story ideas have come from my engagement with community groups. After all, this is what we do: tell stories that matter.”