Andrea Arceneaux Coleman was an early-morning CNN anchor from 1991-96 after earning her bachelorís degree in radio-TV from UTA in 1990. She also worked as news anchor for TV stations in Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta before retiring from broadcasting in 2003. Later that year, she founded Southwest Atlanta Magazine, a bimonthly publication. UTA honored her in February as one of two Outstanding African-American Alumni.
Youíre from a tiny town, Raywood, in southeast Texas. How did you end up at UTA?
I had two choices, either go to Lamar University, which was 35 miles away, and come home on weekends or follow my brother, Farrell, and go to UTA. I chose to follow my brother.
You are the seventh of eight children. What was it like growing up in such a large family?
It was fun in certain ways. We had a partial farm with cattle, pigs and a vegetable garden. We always spent a lot of time outdoors. It was very refreshing. We were raised in a very family-oriented way. We all had chores to do. My father was a construction worker and did cement work on weekends, which allowed our family to have some of lifeís extras. My mother was very good at seeing each personís skill and guiding us in the right direction. She helped us realize that life could exist outside the parameters of the place where we lived, and she helped guide my brothers, Lambert and Farrell, and me toward college. She was always telling us it was something we needed to do.
When did you decide you wanted to be in broadcast communications?
Farrell once told me that I should find something that I enjoyed doing. I thought about pre-pharmacy and business at UTA, but when I went to hear Jesse Jacksonís campaign speech when he was running for president, I just looked around at all the reporters and saw the power of the pen. Thatís when I decided that was what I wanted to do. That summer I did an internship with the CBS station in Dallas.
What UTA professors particularly influenced your career?
I do remember Jack Gibson. He had a passion about what he was doing. He helped students start seeing what it was like once you got out of college. We found that we needed to gain experience while still in school. For me, the internship was key.
What was your first broadcasting job after graduation, and what do you remember most about it?
I started in Lexington, Ky., at the No. 3 station in the market. My first reaction was that I was in over my head. It was a reality check. I learned through fire. You just knew that you were responsible for that slot.
What was it like working those early mornings at CNN?
I always felt like CNN was my masterís degree. Coming from a small town, graduating from college and then in a year and a half being in front of the worldóat times, I felt so unprepared. Perspective and accuracy were very important, and you had to be prepared for change at a momentís notice. Those hours of getting up at 2:30 in the morning, being at the station at 3:30 and doing the show at 5:30 were quite a challenge. I have great respect for those who operate on that level.
You have covered many major events. Which one stands out?
The Oklahoma City bombing. Far and above anything else, just the nature of it, the emotions it brought up. It was an awakening as to how important security is to our nation.
Why did you decide to leave broadcasting to start a magazine?
My husband is an attorney, and we were not able to care for the needs of our family. We had our children [Jonathan, Justin and Jordan] in home care and day care, and we just felt the family was making a sacrifice. The magazine started because I had a few free hours in the afternoon. Now itís almost full time.
Several articles in this issue of UTA Magazine feature alumni who overcame adversity en route to success. What obstacles have you had to overcome?
My biggest obstacle was the unexpected arrival of opportunity, from Raywood to UTA, stepping into a career. I found out the value of knowledge. I didnít know the extensiveness of the world until I had to talk about it.
What advice do you have for aspiring journalists?
Study, pay attention. Donít take things for granted. Donít put yourself in a box, leave yourself open. You donít have to be in front of the camera. Producing and other positions are just as valuable. Honesty and integrity are very important. Put your value on the people receiving the information.
What was your reaction upon hearing that you had received the alumni award?
My first thought was, ďWhat have I done?Ē There are so many others who have done so much. At 39, Iím just beginning in another vein with our magazine. Iím grateful and honored to receive the award. I just feel that I have a lot more to do.
— Jim Patterson